How to Start a Successful Travel Blog: Step-by-Step Guide (+ Free Course)

Starting a travel blog was the best thing we’ve ever done. We get to work together on something we love, and we aren’t just limited to 2 weeks of vacation a year. This job has brought us all over the world, and we’ve been able to make good money doing it.

But let me tell you, travel blogging isn’t easy. There have been many times we almost quit. And I’m not gonna sugarcoat it: Blogging requires a lot of hard work.

But if you aren’t afraid of the nitty-gritty and you’re ready to put in the hours, WE BELIEVE IN YOU. There are a lot of blogs out there, but if you produce quality content, you can rise up in this crowded space and be very successful.

This article is going to walk you through the steps to creating a blog. And not just any old blog… one that is primed to make you money (like more than $14,000 per month!). 

We’ve been in your shoes, and we know your time is valuable. We don’t intend to waste it, so be sure you read the points below before getting started.

Before delving into this process…

We would highly (HIGHLY!) recommend you start by reading this article where we pull back the curtains, wipe away the bullshit, and give you a peek into the world of travel blogging so you can decide if it’s really for you. Because it’s honestly not for everyone. And I wouldn’t want you to devote the time to making a blog if you’re not on board with everything we discuss in that article…

What makes this article different

There are a lot of articles out there on how to create a travel blog, but quite frankly, a lot of them leave out some essential pieces.

We have found most of them tend to follow a very similar, cookie-cutter process. And coming from two people who have spent 5+ years blogging, we’ll tell you there are some very important things being left out in the majority of these articles. Go check some out, and you might notice what we’re talking about.

Our mission… If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you already know that we don’t ever write articles that just skim the surface… (not our thing). We aim to answer ALL the questions and equip our readers with everything they need for their travels – or in this case, for building a blog. So you better believe this article is going to go deeper than most of the other ones you’ll find on the Internet.

A Note on Transparency

It is our core mission to be 100% honest and transparent in everything we write.

In this article, we are not only recommending products that will make us money. We are showing you the whole picture so you can make the best decisions for yourself. And whether you choose a product or service we earn commission on or not, it is our main goal for you to be HAPPY and on your way to starting a money-making blog.

But yes, we do have some affiliate links in this article. (Read Below)

Disclaimer: There are affiliates in this article, which means we may get a small commission if you purchase a service or product we recommend. It costs you nothing extra, and we ONLY ever recommend products we love or would personally use ourselves.

Already have a blog?

If you already have a blog up and running, that’s AMAZING *cue virtual bear hug*! Drop a comment with your URL in the comments and we’ll take a look and maybe even give you a couple pointers!

There are some things in this article that you’ve likely already mastered (high five!), but I bet there are one or two of these steps that you could work on. Trust me, it took us a couple years to really say we had it all down.

Pay close attention to #1, 2, 9, 11 and 12! We think those steps are often overlooked by bloggers who are just getting started, so give those a read.

Pin for later!

This article is a BEAST. And it will be super helpful if you actually take the time to do each step. Be sure to bookmark this page or pin it for later, so you don’t lose your place.

 
 

1. Determine Your Purpose

Determining your purpose is going to shape all other steps in this guide. Getting clear on your goals will give you motivation and perspective. It can be the driving force that shapes your success, so take this step seriously.

Take a moment to picture your blog in 6 to 12 months from now. What do you see? And answer this question honestly:

What will the main purpose of your blog be: Hobby Blogging or Blogging Business?

Hobby Blogging

Is this blog a fun thing to do on the side? A place for you to let out your thoughts. Share your advice. Document your stories and photos? Something you genuinely enjoy?

Starting hobby blog is great way to have a creative outlet and share your passions with those around you. Sometimes it can generate a bit of moolah, but making money is not your goal.

Blogging as a Business

Or are you hoping for your blog to generate money? Do you see it as a side business? Will you be spending hours researching and learning new skills for this blog?

If you picture this blog as a business, what do you expect out of your blog in a year? What kinds of realistic goals can you accomplish?

Maybe you’d be happy with a few hundred dollars each month to put toward your mortgage or debt. Or perhaps you want this to eventually be a business that generates a full-time income.

Personal Note: Our dream starting out was for our blog to make enough money to pay our monthly (yet sizable!) student loan payment.

Takeaways:

  • What is your purpose for your blog? Write down your goal.

  • Are you going to create a hobby blog or a blog for business?

2. Find Your Niche

There are literally millions of blogs out there today. Hundreds of millions, actually. And the numbers are increasing every single day. Every hour.

We’re not sharing this to discourage you, but instead to illustrate just how important it is for you to stand out if you want to be a successful blogger.

The good news is this: Even if every single human being on earth had a blog, yours would still be unique. You are the only one with your voice and your story. So start by focusing on what you know and what you’re passionate about. It will make this journey SO much easier and more rewarding. Trust us.

Choosing a Niche

When you say you want to start a “travel blog”, that is the category, not the niche. For a niche, you need to get more specific still.

For instance, your niche could be “campervan travel around the world”.

Here are some examples of niches that could fit in the Travel category. Notice how some are quite general, while others are very specific:

  • traveling around the world while working odd jobs through WorkAway

  • traveling with children on a budget

  • going on cruises as a solo traveler

  • street food around the world

  • hiking around the world

  • travel hacking (how to use airline miles and lounges)

  • gay/lesbian travel (especially focusing on countries where it’s taboo)

  • staying fit on your travels

  • high-end travel as a young, solo traveler

  • world travel with a focus on epic hikes

  • vegan/celiac travel

  • travel focused on local dishes and learning how to cook them

  • slow travel (spending months exploring off the beaten path places most tourists don’t see)

  • super honest travel advice (calling out overrated places)

  • create art for each place you travel (poetry, painting, custom map, etc.)

Those are just some examples, but the options are endless.

Don’t fall into the trap of copying what you see as being “popular” just because you can’t choose. You’ll fall into the white noise of all the others out there with the same niche if it’s not something you are truly 100% passionate about.

And even if the niche you choose is saturated, brainstorm how you can put your own unique spin on it.

For example: There might be lots of other family travel bloggers, but your children will do project-based learning on your travels, which you will share on your blog.

Why is it important to choose a niche?

In the world of blogging, being an master on a certain topic is one of the fastest ways to grow.

  1. Google is more likely to view you as an authority if you blog about a specific topic. This means you will be able to rank in Google search results more easily if you cover one topic as opposed to 8.

  2. Your audience is more likely to stay engaged and trust you if you stick to one area of expertise, like responsible travel, rather than covering an array of topics, like travel and recipes and cruises and makeup and lifestyle. You can’t be an expert on it all, and people are less likely to trust you if you claim to know it all.

  3. People will stay on your site longer, because everything relates to them. Imagine going to a website for Mexico travel advice, and you see links for a Mexico Packing list, and top Aztec ruins in Mexico, and best food to try in Mexico. You might click around because it all relates to you!

Do I have to choose a niche right away?

We recommend pinning down your niche right away if possible because:

  • It can help determine the name of your website.

  • It might determine your logo and branding.

  • It might even shape how you make money, and fuel your success.

  • It will also help you paint a better picture of who your audience is, and will help you write with them in mind.

There are many benefits to choosing your niche right away, but if you just can’t think of something right now, don’t get too discouraged. This technically can come later. It did for us.

Our personal story: When we first started blogging, we had no clue that choosing a niche was something we should do. So we just started writing. After about a year, we realized most of our writing in some way came back to sharing how travelers can make better decisions on the road: Booking the trekking company to Machu Picchu that pays porters fair wages, and how to tell if the Amazon lodge you’re staying in is harming the environment. Boom. We discovered our niche.

The niche of Two Wandering Soles is “adventurous and responsible travel”. We seek off the beaten path adventures, and share how others can travel the world in a way that leaves a positive impact on the environment and communities they visit.

But we had lost some ground during that year in which we weren’t writing with our niche in mind. Over the next year, we did a bit of site redesigning to fit our niche, updated our logo, and started to hone in our voice. Imagine if we had done that from the start… We would have been much further ahead.

Takeaways:

  • Choose a niche that fits your personality and experience.

  • The earlier you pick a niche, the better you can hone in your voice and find an audience.

  • Picking a niche right away can help shape your site’s design and even your domain.

3. Choose a Blog Name

Choosing the name of your blog is a biggie, but it can be pretty fun too if you know where to start. Your blog name is important because it can determine how you are viewed by your audience, other bloggers and brands you want to work with. Your blog name is the first thing people see on your site and you want it to leave a lasting impression.

It is essentially YOUR BRAND.

We’re walking you through some tips and strategies that will help you choose a perfect name for your blog. (And a name that you won’t regret 5 years down the road…)

How to Choose a Blog Name (that doesn’t Suck!)

Takeaways:

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my blog name easy to say and read?

  • Is it memorable?

  • Is it timeless?

  • Does it describe what my blog is about?

Investment: around $25 per year for purchasing a domain name (Or FREE if you use Squarespace. More on this in a moment…)

4. Pick a Blogging Platform

Alright, here’s where things start to get REAL. This is where you’re going to make an investment, so it can feel a little overwhelming at first. But trust us, making this leap is the start of something amazing!

Let’s discuss how to choose the platform on which you will build your blog. There are a few options out there, but for this article, we’re going to talk about the 2 most popular platforms for blogging.

1. WordPress

This is without a doubt the most popular platform for bloggers. WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS), which means that you are in charge of all aspects of your website, from managing security, to doing site updates, to keeping on top of your hosting provider and plugins. This allows you the ultimate freedom, but comes with more responsibility for staying on top of everything.

Pros:

  • WordPress gives you the most freedom to customize your website any which way you choose!

  • Plus, it’s the most well-known by web designers, so if you plan to hire someone to do the design work for you, they will most likely be very familiar with this platform.

Cons:

  • The downside of WordPress is that it has a steep learning curve at first. You will need to set aside time to learn coding and working with the platform itself. Once you get it down, though, it shouldn’t be too much of an obstacle.

  • Another thing to consider about WordPress is that you will have to work with several “plugins” and you will have to manually manage them to make sure they’re updated and working properly, or they can negatively impact your site. With the right plugins though, you can do some really cool stuff on your website!

2. Squarespace

This is another platform that works well for blogging, and one of the biggest positives is that it’s super easy to use. Squarespace is a Website Builder, which means it takes care of a lot of things for you — from your hosting, security, updates and SEO tools. This makes it easy to manage everything, yet leaves you with some limitations.

Pros:

  • With Squarespace, “what you see is what you get!” AKA: What you see when you type is how your pages will look when they are published.

  • It’s always optimized for mobile (which is very important!).

  • You really have no reason to learn coding, and you won’t have to deal with individual plugins like you would with WordPress.

  • Squarespace also provides the hosting for you, so you will not need to go through a hosting provider. It truly is a one-stop-shop, and you’ll never have to worry about “buggy” plugins or your hosting provider having glitches, sending your site offline.

  • Plus, there is 24/7 customer service, which can be very helpful, especially when you’re first getting started.

Cons:

  • The ease of use does come with some limitations. For instance, you won’t be able to customize nearly as much as you would on WordPress.

  • Also, being that it is not as popular as WordPress, it’ll be more difficult to find skilled designers (though we have a good recommendation if you need one!).

  • Another downside to Squarespace is that it tends to be a bit slower than WordPress, especially if you have large image sizes (though you can speed things up by compressing images and saving them at optimal sizes).

What about Wix?

This platform is better suited for very basic websites, like a restaurant who has a homepage, a menu and an “about us” sections. It can be a good choice for business owners who don’t plan to use their website as a blog.

Which is better: WordPress or Squarespace?

Simply put, Google doesn’t care which one you use. The platform that is best for YOU is a personal thing.

You’ll see nearly every blogger recommending WordPress, and it is a great choice. It’s by far the most popular platform out there, and as long as you make the effort to familiarize yourself with it, you will likely be a fan.

For a lot of people, WordPress will be the best option. But it is not the ONLY option. Often times people dismiss Squarespace without having any experience with the platform themselves. 

Good to know: There is affiliate commission to be made in by recommending WordPress themes and hosting providers. Whereas with Squarespace, there are no affiliate programs and no money can be made by recommending it. So keep that in mind as you do your research.

If you, like us, just don’t feel like WordPress is intuitive, know that Squarespace is a good alternative. We are making more than $14,000 a month on our Squarespace website and outranking thousands of WordPress sites, after all. So we are very happy with our choice!

We love the ease of use, and the fact that we don’t have to stay on top of updating plugins. (We’re in a lot of Facebook threads where people share their horror stories about buggy plugins that have caused their site to crash, losing them money).

I will be honest and say we have encountered limitations with our site design and speed with Squarespace.

But Squarespace in no way limits our SEO or ability to rank in Google searches (a common myth that has no foundation). In fact, we get 80% of our traffic from organic search and rank for more than 40,000 keywords in Google. We outrank thousands of WordPress sites, so we’re doing very well when it comes to SEO.

Which platform should you choose?

  • Choose Wordpress if… you are excited by the prospect of learning code (or paying a designer to work their magic!). You will also like Wordpress if have a complex idea in mind for your site design and you like having the same platform as most people out there so you easily find resources.

  • Choose Squarespace if… you prefer a simpler platform and are okay with design limitations.

One important thing to know is it is quite difficult to switch between the 2 platforms. It can be done, but it will be a huge headache, especially if you have a sizable website.

Plan to choose one and stick with it.

Still unsure which platform is best for you? Check out this super detailed comparison that breaks down all the differences between Squarespace and WordPress.

Takeaways:

  • There are 2 main platforms that work well for blogging, with WordPress being the most popular.

  • Both Squarespace and WordPress have pros and cons, and the right platform for you depends on your goals as a blogger and your confidence with each format.

  • It is difficult to switch between the two, so pick one and plan to stick with it.

If you have more specific comments on this topic, please comment below and we will do our best to answer you honestly.

Total Investment: around $216 for the Squarespace business plan ($18/month billed annually). WordPress sites will be around the same.

Important to know: If you go with WordPress, you will also have to pay for your domain and hosting, which is an additional cost broken down below…

4.1 Buy Your Domain & Host (ONLY if you choose WordPress)

If you choose to build your blog using Squarespace, you can skip this step, as it serves as both your platform AND your host AND your domain provider (aka one stop shop). Head down to #5 where we’ll continue.

If, however, you are going to build your website with WordPress, keep reading…

  • Domain: You will purchase your web address. (Example: ours is “www.twowanderingsoles.com”)

  • Host: This is the provider who will store all your website files — photos, text, etc.

These are two different services. Hosting is typically a monthly fee, whereas you will pay annually for your domain. For ease, you might want to try to find a provider who will offer both services.

a) Buy your Domain

When we first started blogging, we had a free domain on Blogger, which essentially looked like this: www.twowanderingsoles.blogspot.com

Looks pretty amateur, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

We would strongly advise against going with a free domain. If you’re serious about blogging and hope to make money, you NEED your own domain. And it’s a pain in the ass to switch it over. (We know from experience.)

And when you think about it, the cost of owning your own domain is a very a small investment that essentially allows you to start your own business. So just go ahead, buy your domain and be done with it.

b) Get an SSL Certificate (HTTPS)

When you decide on a hosting site, make sure it includes a SSL (secure socket layers) certificate too. This is what allows your site to have an HTTPS instead of just a HTTP at the front of your URL.

Like this: https://www.twowanderingsoles.com/

What does this even mean?! SSL has become industry standard, showing that your site is secure and any information going into your site, like email addresses, is encrypted and safe.

This comes included on any Squarespace plan and should be included with WordPress plans as well, but make sure to double check and get that HTTPS.

c) Now it’s time to choose a Web Host

There are thousands of companies out there, and you will find they vary quite a bit in price. Our recommendation is to not be lured in by the cheapest one. Finding a quality host is very important, as the host is what will affect your site speed and can cause your site to crash if they are unreliable.

Warning about Web Hosting!!!

Here’s where things get sketchy…

Nearly all of the articles about “How to Start a Blog” will recommend one specific host. Let’s call it “Host B”.

After hearing so many bloggers we trust recommending “Host B”, we assumed it was a good choice for a provider. But when we started doing a little digging, we found something pretty disturbing…

There’s a website that compares more than 4,000 web hosting providers based on customer reviews, and “Host B” is ranked almost dead LAST. It seems as their service has drastically gone down hill in recent years. We even chatted to a few friends who’ve had their site crash numerous times with this host, resulting in a loss of income.

So why are all these top bloggers recommending this unreliable host?!

The dark secret about the Internet is that sometimes products or services are recommended only because there is a good affiliate program (and not necessarily because it’s a good product/service that they actually use themselves).

Keep this in mind whenever making big purchasing decisions.

We’re not in the business of naming and shaming companies online, but if you do a bit of research, you’ll probably figure out which one we’re talking about.

Be wary with the recommendations you see around the Internet. Make sure they come from a source you actually trust, and also do a little research of your own.

(Yes, that includes anything you see recommended on our site as well. What works for one person might not always be the best choice for you. In all cases, we want YOU to be happy and make choices that are best for your situation.)

While we don’t have to worry about hosting providers (one of the benefits of using Squarespace), these are the hosting providers we would honestly choose if we were in the market. Our recommendations are based off reading reviews and actually talking to some blogging friends who use these providers. But as we mentioned above, do some independent research before choosing:

(In full transparency, if you sign up with our links we do make a small commission, just like any other blogger recommending a hosting service. But at least you know that these are quality hosting sites.)

Do your own research! Host Advice is a good website to start with, as it compares all the host providers out there based on real customer reviews.

5. Set up Google Analytics on your site

Now that you have your hosting plan and your website is up and running (even if there’s not much on there yet!), one of the first things you should do is connect your site with Google Analytics (GA). With GA, you can get detailed reports and real time data of the traffic that is coming to your website.

It’s actually really simple to connect your GA account to your website, and Google has broken down all the steps to follow.

Basically you’ll create a Google Analytics account and connect it with your website by placing a certain code in the <head> tag of each page. It’s easier than it sounds, but follow the link in the paragraph above and Google will show you the steps.

Okay, now let’s move onto the FUN STUFF!

Now that you have a domain and platform, pour yourself a glass of wine and celebrate! This is a big step. On to more fun projects to get your blog started.

This is one of my favorite parts of the process. It’s time to get creative and have a little fun!

Create a Mood Board

We recently hired a designer to update our website, and this is the Moodboard she came up with based on images we had saved on Pinterest.

Look around the Internet for websites you like. And not just in the same niche as you plan to be in. Look at travel blogs, lifestyle, beauty, finance, marketing, food, mommy… all the things. (Diversifying the sites you look at will help you avoid inadvertently copying other sites and looking just like the other blogs in your niche.)

Bookmark the pages you like. Now go through all the websites you like and determine what it is exactly that draws you.

The color? The font? The navigation bar? The white space? The photography? The mood?

Collect different elements to create a mood board. Look on Pinterest. Save pictures, patterns and graphics that capture the mood you want to create.

Next, create a color palate. Narrow it down to 2 - 4 colors: 1 main color and 1 - 3 secondary colors (this can include black and white).

Try using these creative tools to make your mood board:

  • Pinterest (explore colors, fonts, and themes)

  • Canva (create your mood board here)

Credit:  Vida Verde

Credit: Vida Verde

Make a Logo

These sites are good for finding fonts for your logo:

  • dafont.com (discover new fonts)

  • CreativeMarket (you need to pay to license fonts — usually $15 - $25 — but they are often more professional than the free fonts you’ll find)

You can create your own logo or hire someone else to do it for you.

There are plenty of graphic designers on sites like Fiverr or Upwork, or you can pay a bit more for a high-quality branding expert right off the bat.

When creating a logo, be sure to have a few different options. You’ll notice that brands usually have at least 3 different logos (see the examples below):

  • Main Logo: At the top of your website, this is the logo you want people to see when they first find you.

  • Secondary Logo: This logo uses a smaller footprint, so you can place it in areas that won’t fit your main one.

  • Small Logo: Just a graphic that can be used as a watermark or in places where you have very little space.

BONUS LOGOS:

  • You’ll likely also want a version of your logo in black & white.

  • You might even want to create a Favicon (that tiny little graphic when you open a new tab).

Get Feedback

Share your mood board and logo with 3 friends: Choose people that are different, if possible. Maybe one friend who has an eye for design, another who isn’t so visually-focused, and another who represents your ideal reader. Ask them for honest feedback. And take their advice seriously. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we like that we forget what our reader likes.

Our advice: DON’T get too caught up in design. When we first started blogging, I spent wayyyyy too much time working on design, and wasted countless hours. As a former graphic designer, I appreciate the importance of good design, but keep in mind that your design will not drive traffic. Plus, the look and feel of our site will keep changing and evolving over time so don’t get too hung up on now. There are more important aspects of blogging you should focus the majority of your energy on in the beginning.

Takeaways:

  • Create a mood board to get an aspects of your website design.

  • Make a logo that is clear and connects with your audience.

  • Decide on a color palate.

  • Don’t get too caught up on design, as you can change it as your blog develops, but have a good foundation to start from.

Total Investment: $0 - $200; Depending on whether you want to do it all yourself or hire a designer.

7. Create Social Media Accounts

Now that you have your niche, your name, your logo and you’ve determined your purpose, it’s time to create social media accounts.

That’s right, I’m advising you create social media before you even touch your website for a handful of reasons:

  1. You don’t need a website first to start creating a presence and community.

  2. Start growing your following. The sooner the better.

  3. Pre-launch: You can promote your website before it even launches.

  4. When you do launch your website, you have a platform and an audience to share with. This is not only more satisfying, but it can help drive traffic to your new site.

But before we delve too much deeper, this is very important to know: 

Being a Blogger is a very different job than being a Social Media Influencer. So don’t get caught up in the numbers (it’s hard not to, I know!). Those huge accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers are not your competition at all. They make their money differently than bloggers do, so don’t think that their following is what your goal should be. 

The purpose of having Social Media is for you to be able to…

  • a) create brand awareness so people know of your website (aka free advertising!)

  • b) drive traffic! 

Also, having a presence on social media is pretty important when working with most brands. And the sooner you get it started, the better!

This step is not meant to take months or even days. Don’t sit behind your screen waiting for likes. Your goal here is to establish your presence on a couple social channels, but don’t dwell on it. Your real work lies ahead in the next steps.

How to grow a (loyal) following on social media

Even though we don’t think you should spend too much time on this step, we’re going to share some tips for growing your following, and we’re focusing on Facebook and Instagram.

  • Contribute to the community. Aka don’t ONLY share your own stuff or be overly self-promotional. It looks desperate and is going to turn people off. Share other bloggers articles (and tag them!). 

  • Resist the urge to copy what everyone else is doing. There are so many accounts out there that it’s easy to fall into the white noice. So it’s important to stand out and be YOU. Share insights and funny stories. Build a rapport, build trust. 

  • Be vulnerable and authentic and genuine. Nobody is going to actually connect with you if all your comments read like this: “Living my best life #YOLO”.

  • ENGAGE with others. This is HUGE. Leave genuine comments (not just “so beautiful” or heart-eyed emojis). Reply to people’s Instagram stories. Social media can be very soul-sucking, but if you make the effort to build real relationships, make connections and be your authentic self, it can be a very powerful thing. 

  • Join social share groups. There are Facebook groups where you can reciprocate comments, likes and shares. It can be a good place to network with other at your level, but be sure the group is high quality and genuine, otherwise it can do more harm than good.

Which Social Media Platforms are best for bloggers?

First of all, think about who your ideal reader is and determine where they hang out:

Instagram? Facebook? Twitter? Reddit? Pinterest? LinkedIn? YouTube?

Chances are, they probably use a few of these platforms. But narrow it down to 1 to 2 that you want to master before moving on to more.

Why only 1 or 2? One of the traps many new (and experienced!) bloggers fall into is they try to spread themselves too thin. Right when you start a blog, you should focus on your strengths and put your efforts there so you can really grow a following. When you have your footing, move on to growing elsewhere.

Invest your time into the platforms that perform best for you. It’s good to have a presence on all the major platforms, but you’ll quickly see which ones feel authentic and actually work well for your brand and your audience.

Personal Note: For instance, Twitter has never really worked all that well for us, so we don’t devote a ton of time to it. A lot of bloggers say Facebook doesn’t perform well for them, but it actually is one of our most engaged communities. This proves that each audience is different and it is just going to take time to reveal what works best for you.

How many followers do I need?

There is a well-known marketing concept that says you only need 1,000 true fans to be successful.

Think about it: If you have 1,000 people who rave about you and trust you, they will be much more likely to stick around, to purchase products you suggest and to convert to paying customers than a million people who can’t remember your name.

At first, even 1,000 fans can seem like a lot. But with consistency, you will get there.

Set smaller milestone goals to make it less overwhelming. 100 followers seems much more achievable. And from there, 500 doesn’t seem so far away. Little by little. One foot in front of the other.

What should I share on social media?

Even if your blog is not up and running yet, you can still get active on the social channels. Here are some ideas for each:

  • Instagram: If you’re in the process of starting a travel blog, begin sharing photos from previous travels.

  • Facebook: Share relevant articles and stories from your adventures to generate interest.

  • Pinterest: Start a Pinterest account with your brand name, set up boards of categories in your niche, and begin by re-pinning other’s Pins.

  • Twitter: Tweet articles and travel-related content. Start following others in the travel-world and re-tweet their stuff.

  • YouTube: Create your profile and upload a fun “Intro” video about yourself. Subscribe to other travel vloggers’ channels and comment on their videos.

  • Reddit: If you know your ideal reader uses Reddit a lot, start answering travel-related questions without asking anything in return.

Get on Pinterest (NOW!)

While Pinterest is often referred to as a form of social media, it is technically a Search Engine. And it can drive LOADS of traffic to your website if you use it correctly. 

For example, we currently get more than 15,000 sessions each month from people who find our articles on Pinterest! Cool, huh?!

So while you’re setting up all your social media accounts, go ahead and set up Pinterest too. This is a platform that you’ll want to devote some time to learning eventually, but for now, just get it set up.

Canva is a tool that has many Pinterest templates you can use to create beautiful designs for free! (Canva saves the day AGAIN!)

Pinterest is a beast of a topic that we will cover much more in depth eventually, but if you want to get started now, our friends Lia and Christina from Slaying Social have a great guide to creating a Pinterest strategy!

Takeaways:

  • Starting your Social Media early is a good way to establish yourself and connect with others in your niche.

  • Focus your efforts on growing 1 or 2 platforms, then expand to other social medias.

  • Create small goals, like reaching 100 followers in your first month, and then make new milestones along the way.

  • Know that there is a big difference between Instagram Influencers and Bloggers. Don’t get so carried away by growing your following that you never start your blog.

  • Get on Pinterest ASAP! It is a great way to drive traffic if you use it correctly.

Total Investment: $0; Just your time.

8. Choose Your Website Design

Time to bring out that mood board, baby!

This is an area that is really easy to get caught up on and spend tons of time (and money) trying to perfect. I’m going to come right out and say that your design WILL change, probably more than once, along your blogging journey.

Don’t do what I did and get so sucked into creating the perfect design that you push off everything else. As a former graphic designer, I truly believe in the power of design. But I can also honestly tell you that it is not going to be what brings you traffic.

There are plenty of crappy-looking websites out there that are killing it because they have mastered the art of writing good content, which brings readers.

Of course, I’m not saying to go with a crappy design on purpose and breeze through this step. A good design will captivate readers once they get to your site. It will make them want to stay a while and come back.

But my advice is this: Start with a simple, clean design. You can customize it later with more personality and functionality once your site starts to grow and you understand your readers’ needs.

Takeaways:

  • Don’t get bogged down with a design, start simply and grow from there.

  • Make sure you leave space to grow, with a smart navigation and

  • Make it easy for readers to jump around your site to reach the content they want.

  • Know the functions and limitation of your template before you purchase it/invest time in creating it.

Total Investment: $0 - $500+; free if you use do it yourself using free templates, but this can increase significantly if you purchase a paid theme or hire a professional designer.

9. Create Essential Blog Pages

Once you have your domain and design theme in place, the first thing you should do is create your essential pages:

  • Homepage

  • About Me

  • Contact

These can all start being quite basic. You’ll surely add on over time. But you should have these in place before you start getting visitors to your site.

Imagine someone reads an article, and they love your style and want to work with you on a partnership, but there is no “contact” page. That opportunity is lost.

And likewise, a reader falls in love with your voice and wants to get to know you better, but there is no “about me” page. You just lost a loyal fan.

Homepage

This is what people will land on when they get to your website. You want it to show what your blog is about and make them intrigued to learn more. It should also be easy to navigate to they click around!

Look around at homepages and find ones you like for inspiration. Again, try to look at all blog niches and topics so you don’t wind up copying all other bloggers in your space. 

Elements of a successful homepage:

  • It should say what your blog is about.

  • Easy to use Navigation with all your major categories (destinations, packing tips, about, contact, etc.)

  • Short blurb about who you are with a link to your “about page”.

  • Popular Articles and/or Recent Posts: When you’re first starting out, this might just be one or 2 articles and that’s okay!

  • Photos that show what your website is about.

    • Tip: Having YOU in the photos helps the reader connect with you, and differentiates your site from every other travel blog out there.

Your Goal: Readers know what your website is about and how to navigate.

About Me Page

Look at your favorite blogger’s About Me pages for inspiration, but remember this is not a place to copy. This is a place to showcase YOUR story and YOUR voice.

Ours even has embarrassing photos of us. See below…

You can get super creative with your About Me page, so we’re not going to give you a cookie cutter template. However, there are some thing you should be sure to include:

  • Who are you? Why should the reader care about you and trust you? Establish credibility.

  • Where are you from?

  • Why did you start this blog? What was your motivation behind it?

  • What is your story/background with Travel (or the topic you write about)?

  • Fun Facts about you: give the reader some things they can relate to!

  • What can they expect from your website? (honest advice, epic pictures, budget hacks, funny stories) Why should they come back?

  • Share pictures! Photos that depict you doing your favorite things (not just head shots!): Hiking, cooking, walking your dog, relaxing at the beach, at a posh hotel, hugging your kids, etc., etc.

    • Note: There have been studies done that show pictures of people smiling — specifically, showing their teeth — make readers/customers trust more than pictures where the person is not smiling. Just putting it out there… take it as you will!

  • Email Opt-In at the bottom of the About Us page: Now the reader has gotten to know you, how can they keep hearing updates? Through email newsletters! More on this in #9.

Your Goal: After reading this, your audience should feel like they KNOW YOU.

Contact Page

When you’re first starting out, a very simple page will do just fine. Think of all the reasons someone might contact you, and write up something simple like this:

Do you have a comment or question for me? Interested in working together? I love connecting with likeminded people and would love to hear from you. Simply fill out the form below and I will get back to you shortly!

Your platform should be able to create a very simple contact form for the reader to fill out with their name, email and message.

Your Goal: Readers know how they can get in touch with you!

Pro Tip: Make a new email address

You can create a free one on Gmail that looks like this: yourblogname@gmail.com or you can get a G-Suite business account that looks like this: hello@yourblogname.com for $6 per month.

When you’re just starting out, the free one is perfectly fine. And it’s easy to upgrade later. However, you will not want your personal address to be tied to the website because it is public information. You’ll start getting emails from random people and companies trying to contact the website owner. We made this mistake and are still dealing with it today (5 years later).

Takeaways:

  • Create the essential blog pages like an About Me and Contact Me. Now readers can learn about you and reach out if they have any questions.

  • Create a Blog email address

Total Investment: $0, or $6 per month for a G-suite customized email address.

10. Create an Email Opt-In

Ask just about any big blogger, and they will tell you that your email list is your single most valuable asset. It isn’t affected by algorithms and you are in control of it 100%

Why do you need an email list in the first place?

This list will become your true fans who will support you throughout the lifetime of your blog. They will be the ones who share your site with their friends and will most likely be the ones buying products or services you recommend.

When you’re first starting out, this can seem overwhelming. But take it from us (and just about every other blogger out there!) and don’t delay in getting an opt-in set up so you can start growing your list from Day 1.

Don’t overthink it. There is a whole strategy and art to email marketing (which we will cover eventually), but to begin with, let’s start small. 

What do you need to get started?

An Email Management System (this is the software that will send out emails to your entire list). Some systems are free to start with, and others cost money. You can see our (free) recommendation below.

Email Service Providers (ESP)

In the blogging world, there are several Email Service Providers (ESP) that everyone talks, but to save you from pulling your hair out, we recommend looking into these 3 as a beginning blogger:

  • MailChimp

  • ConvertKit

  • MailerLite

When we first started out, we used MailChimp since it was free to begin with (up until you have 2,000 subscribers). Our honest opinion is that it is a fine starter program, but it is missing some of the features that you’ll want eventually. We ended up migrating to MailerLite and we really love it. It has all the features that an ESP should provide and it’s really easy to use and manage our lists.

Many other bloggers recommend ConvertKit which is also a great ESP. However, MailerLite is about half the price (for basically all the same features)! Plus, you can have a free account until you reach 1,000 subscribers, making it perfect for starting out.

Important Note about Regulations: The GDP (or General Data Protection Regulations) is a law that impacts how websites can use email addresses (and other data). We’d encourage you to read up on the GDP eventually, but here are the basics: When setting up an email opt-in, you need to be clear about what you will use their email for. Plus, you must send a double opt-in (secondary email confirming the reader’s subscription). You can control this through your ESP.

How to start collecting emails

Start simple. All you need when you’re just starting out is a simple box with a place for people to put their name and email. That way, the option is there and you’re not missing out on any opportunities to add people to your list of loyal fans!

It is important to have this in place as soon as possible, however, I’d be lying if I said your email list will grow without doing anything else. It’s gonna be a stagnant and might be hard to grow to include more than just your Mom and 4th grade teacher cuz they wanna keep tabs on you support you.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty picky AF with who I give my email out to. My inbox is constantly exploding, so I protect my email address and give it out only to people I trust won’t spam me and who I believe will provide me with VALUE.

The best way to do this is to give something away. FOR FREE. (Yeah, I wasn’t joking in this article when I said you’d have to work for free at first!)

Eventually you’ll want to create a resource — like a packing list or top tips for traveling in Europe — that you will give away for FREE when someone signs up for your email list. Hopefully it goes without saying, but make it GOOD. Nobody likes signing up for a list only to be disappointed by the crappy resource that gets sent to their inbox. Nothing makes me hit “unsubscribe” faster than a half-assed PDF.

This is an email opt-in we use on our website. Subscribers get a HUGE, information-packed e-book when they sign up!

This is an email opt-in we use on our website. Subscribers get a HUGE, information-packed e-book when they sign up!

Pro Tip: Canva is a great (and free!) tool to create beautiful graphics when designing opt-in incentives.

Okay, now you’re collecting email addresses…

So what should your Newsletters be about?

You can get creative with this, but make sure what you’re sending is useful, otherwise your subscribers are going to drop off, or they will just start deleting your emails without opening them (which is bad news).

Eventually, you’ll be able to do A LOT with your emails, but remember I said we’re starting small…

Sign up for other bloggers’ newsletter for inspiration. For instance, when you sign up for our newsletter, you get:

  • Travel Tips: maybe we just saw a super cheap flight deal from NYC to Paris, or we’ll share other hacks we’ve learned on our travels. Sometimes we share our new favorite gear or products too!

  • Giveaways: Sometimes we do giveaways with our favorite products

  • New Articles: Usually after publishing an article, we share it with our email subscribers.

  • Updates on what we’ve been doing.

Tip: Make sure you send consistent emails. When you’re first starting, once a month is a good goal to aim for. 

Okay, I’m going to stop here. Email marketing is a complex topic and we could honestly write an entire course on this topic alone. There are SO many mistakes you can make when email marketing, and honestly, there is an art to creating a resource that people actually WANT and will trade their email address for. Plus, there are formulas for handling those email addresses when you do get them.

We’ve made all the mistakes out there, and now have come up with a pretty solid strategy that has made our email list grow like wildfire.

I don’t want to get too advanced or overwhelm you right as you’re starting out. But this is a topic we love talking about because it can absolutely be a game changer when you’re trying to make money as a blogger. You better believe we’ll be covering all the ins and outs of email marketing eventually. 

Takeaways:

  • Start growing your email list start right away!

  • Place email opt-ins on a few places on your site, like in the footer of your website.

  • Collect emails with an ESP. We recommend MailerLite, because it’s free to start and easy to set up.

  • Be sure you understand GDP regulations!

Total Investment: free to begin with, but this service costs money when you reach a certain number of subscribers. (See below)

MailerLite pricing tiers:

  • $0 for up to 1,000 subscribers

  • $15 per month for 1,001 - 2,500 subscribers

  • $30 per month for 2,501 - 5,000 subscribers

11. Write your first blog post

Now it’s finally the time to start writing! Hopefully this is something you enjoy, because you’ll be doing a lot of it as a blogger.

If you don’t already have a topic in mind, start by brainstorming things you have enough experience to write about. Pay extra attention to topics that people will actually search in Google.

  • Did you recently take a trip to Italy? Create an itinerary, share your favorite spots, create a list of things to do, write about the best Italian foods to try…

  • Are you a packing whiz? Create a packing list with all the essential items you pack.

  • Do you travel with children? Put together a list of advice for new parents planning to travel with their kiddos.

If you want to be a successful blogger, read this carefully:

There are no shortcuts when it comes to writing.

The market is so saturated that you MUST create high-quality content if you want any chance of ranking in Google.

Back in 2008, one could slop together 500 words on any subject; and with the right keywords and a little luck, they could easily rank in Google searches. But today this is simply not the case.

The optimal word count has increased year after year, as more and more websites are born. According to one source, the optimal word count for an article in 2019 is roughly 1,700 words.

Now, before you start banging out an article that has 1,700 words on the dot, listen up… This doesn’t mean that every article you write needs to be this long. And it certainly doesn’t mean you should stuff an article with fluff just so it gets to a certain number of words.

But that number should give you an idea of the types of articles Google likes: Long. Information-packed. And most importantly, helps the reader.

Truthfully, we hardly ever check our word count when writing a new article. We simply write with the intention of answering all our readers’ questions they could have on the topic we’re talking about. And if that is your goal, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem getting enough words.

As an example: The article you’re reading right now is well over 8,000 words!

Word of advice: It is better to create a handful of high quality posts that truly answer your readers’ questions than 100 articles that kinda suck.

How to write a good blog post

I see you rolling your eyes… Writing a blog post is the easy part, right? Umm, not so much. There are so many things you really should know about how to write a proper blog post.

I mean, I have a journalism degree, but I had no clue (NO CLUE!) how to write for a blog. So yeah, even if you’re a natural-born writer, there are some things you really need to know… Including one piece of information you should have before you even start typing your first article: It’s the thing that will set you up for success. Or for failure, if you choose to ignore it. 

Don’t worry, we’re not going to just leave you hanging! We’re delving into what exactly this super important thing is on Day 1 of our 5-day FREE blogging mini-course. Plus, so, SO much more that will help you on your blogging journey.

And once you’ve signed up for our (free!) course, move onto the last 2 steps on this list…

Takeaways:

  • Write a blog article about a recent experience you had

  • Aim for the article be 1,000 to 2,000 words. The more detailed and helpful the information, the better.

  • Sign up for our 5-day FREE blogging mini-course where we’ll show you exactly how to write articles that will rank on Google.

12. Share, baby, SHARE!

Now that your article is out there, share, share, SHARE! Post witty captions on social media with links to your articles, reach out to companies you featured, and connect with other bloggers to share.

Social Media Sharing

If your social media accounts are still small, post on your blog page and also share that post on your personal page.

Good to know: Back in 2018, Facebook did an algorithm update and it now prioritizes personal pages over business pages, because their goal is to make business pages pay for advertising. And unfortunately for us bloggers, most social media platforms are moving in the same direction. This is why sharing things on your personal pages (or getting friends and family to help you out) can help boost your reach, especially when you’re first starting out!

When you are first starting your blog, for every article you publish, try to:

  • post an image Instagram AND Instagram stories

  • schedule pins to Pinterest using Tailwind (our Pinterest secret-weapon!).

  • post on Facebook (and for every other article you create, share to your personal page too)

  • Optional: tweet to Twitter (or schedule tweets on Buffer)

Sound like a lot? That’s because it is, but wait there’s more!

Company Outreach

Did you share a hotel recommendation or mention a restaurant that has your favorite meal in town? Email any companies you featured in the article and ask them to share on their social platforms. Companies love free advertising and they might reward you for it.

Some times it works, some times it doesn’t. But if you send a nice, professional-looking email that short but also flattering, more often than not they will be honored and will share your article.

Here are examples of 3 companies we had mentioned who shared our articles, and we reached a wider audience!

Connect with other bloggers in your niche

You could even try asking other travel bloggers to share your article. But this will not work very well unless you go about it in the right way...

Here’s how you should approach it.

Look for a blogger who is:

  • around your size

  • someone who regularly shares articles from other bloggers

  • someone you’ve already had contact with (maybe comment on a couple of their Instagram photos so they know your name!)

Now, share one or two of their articles on your Facebook. Tweet it. Share in your Instagram stories. Save on Pinterest.

Now, write them an email that sounds something like this,

“Hey [name], I have been following your account for a while now and I genuinely LOVE the content you create. You have such beautiful photos and a down-to-earth voice. I shared your recent article on Italian foods on my Facebook page, Twitter and Pinned it. I am dreaming of going back to Italy after looking at all those yummy meals!

Anyway, I just published an article on beaches in Italy, and thought you might want to check it out (link is below). If you like it, I’d really appreciate if you share it with your audience too! Keep up the amazing work and let me know if you think there are any opportunities to collaborate in the future!”

Not only have you potentially gotten a share, but you’re now on their radar and they might think of you in the future for other opportunities. Making relationships like this can be key to your success.

But if you go about it in the wrong way (aka sending mass emails and asking for something before giving) you will be IGNORED, or earn a not so flattering reputation.

Takeaways:

  • Promote your new article on Social Media, ask companies to share and connect with other bloggers for shares.

13. Backwards Plan for Success

Give yourself a pat on the back… no, that’s too small a praise. Pour yourself some wine. Or whiskey. And CELEBRATE! You are officially a blogger!

Take some time to enjoy that feeling.

And when you’re ready to roll up your sleeves again, this is what I want you to do…

Fill in the blank:

In one year from now, I want my blog to ____________________.

  • Think about how much money you want to make per month.

  • Think about how much traffic you would like each month.

  • Think about other feelings and goals: What do you want to inspire in people?

  • Do you have other benchmarks, like being interviewed by your favorite publication, or being asked to speak at a conference? Do you want to go on an all-expense-paid press trip?

Write down all your goals for your blog, and date the paper. This is going to be your inspiration over the next 365 days. Keep it somewhere that you’ll see it.

Trust me when I say you will need to be reminded of this purpose. Of your goals. Of what you want to achieve. Because this journey is not going to be easy.

There will be times (many times!) you want to quit. There will likely be tears and curse words and feelings of failure. And if you don’t have goals or a purpose, it’s going to be so easy to throw in the towel.

Turn your goals into a plan

Now here’s where we’re going to shift focus a bit…

Having goals and inspiration is great, but it can only go so far. If you really want to be successful, you need to plan backwards from where it is you want to be one year from now.

If you want to make $1,000 per month in a year, that means 6 months from now, you should be making around $500. How are you going to get there? That money isn’t magically going to appear in your bank account.

If you want 10,000 pageviews per month, how are you going to get them? Organic Google search? Social Media? What’s your plan? If you don’t have one, nobody is going to find your site, no matter how good your writing is.

If you really want to be a successful blogger, what it all comes down to is investing in yourself.

Now this can mean many things. It can mean paying for a course that walks you through everything you need to know about growing traffic and monetizing your blog.

But investing doesn’t have to cost money: It can mean dedicating the time you usually spend watching Game of Thrones to learning everything there is to learn about the world of SEO (you can find a lot of stuff out there for free!).

Here are some big names in the digital marketing industry that constantly give out good (and free!) advice:

OUR FREE GIFT FOR YOU!

I truly hope that after reading this article you are equipped with the basic knowledge of how to start a blog. And I hope you also are prepared with the mindset it is going to take to be successful in this industry.

I want that for you because I know that blogging can change your life.

Ben and I have created our dream life — one with the freedom to work from anywhere in the world — from this blog. And we are incredibly grateful for that.

But the thing is, we could have had this lifestyle so much earlier had we known what we were doing right away. We made mistakes — a lot of mistakes — and left so much money on the table that it stresses me out to think about it.

We genuinely want YOU to be able to experience the freedom we have without making all the silly mistakes we did. And that’s why we are almost done putting together a free 5-day blogging mini-course that brings you deeper and gives you all the tools you need to be successful as a travel blogger. (And honestly, most of what you’ll learn can be applied to any type of blog: food blog, mom blog, lifestyle blog, etc.)

Most of the free “blogging boot camp” or “mini-courses” courses out there are literally going to be just like this article you just read: Choose your Domain, Set up your Platform, etc., etc. But since we’ve already gone over all that, you know our course is going to be deeper and more valuable.

And it is FREE, folks. 100%, no strings attached.

This free course is absolutely PACKED with action items, practical tips and things you can do right now to start seeing success on your blog.

We hate fluff. We value your time. And we promise this 5-day free mini-course will be well worth your while if you’re serious about blogging. Join the waitlist now!

Save this MASSIVE article on Pinterest, so you can come back to it!

We want to hear from you!

Are you ready to start blogging? Do you have any questions about the steps above? Where are you in creating a blog? We are happy to answer all your questions in the comments below!