Make your travel blog successful? But how?
If you believe what you read online, you may think it’s far too late to create and promote a travel blog, that the ship (or plane, har har) left a long time ago.
“I’ll never catch up,” you may think. “Why bother? Too many established blogs exist. Woe.”
Honestly, it’s never too late to create a blog. You hear the same “Debbie Downer” nonsense about every career path in life. Too late, too saturated, too much competition, you’ll never make it, blah blah blah. Wanna know my opinion? Who cares. I do what I want, and you should too.
But even if you ignore naysayers (which you should), it’s still helpful to enter travel blogging with a plan, especially if you want to create a career for yourself.
Enter Navigate Media Group and BlogHouse.
What is BlogHouse?
BlogHouse is a workshop run by Navigate Media Group. Each BlogHouse workshop, since its creation in 2012, has had different bloggers taking newcomers under their wings.
For BlogHouse Philly, the following amazing mentors helped show me the ropes:
- Sherry Ott from Otts World
- Cailin O’Neil from Travel Yourself
- Lisa Lubin from LL World Tour
- Anne Lowrey from Part-Time Traveler
- Lisa Ghisolf at Gizmo Creative Factory
I won’t lie to you. Our days were absolutely packed. Excursions, cocktail receptions, workshops, site audits. Us newbies had to work and work hard. Every second was worth it, though. Sonesta’s rooms are super comfortable, but I still woke up at 6:00 am. every morning, ideas filling my head.
But I won’t bore you with my own plans for Blond Wayfarer. I promised to show you how to make your travel blog successful, didn’t I? Here are a couple tips I learned over the weekend. Take notes.
1. Know Your Niche and Brand
Sorry, folks, but you can’t avoid niches and brands.
Think about it: if you’re seeking general travel tips, why would you read random blogs instead of Lonely Planet or Trip Advisor? You’re not. I know I wouldn’t wanna compete with their google rankings, no way.
People flock to blogs for the writers’ personalities and specialties. For example, when I first began to teach, I read Amanda’s blog “A Dangerous Business” all the time before sluggishly driving to work. Why? I related to her part time and laid back approach to travel.
Think long and hard about it: what makes your blog stand out from the rest of the pack?
2. Make Sure Your Design Reflects Your Brand
Have you noticed my layout changed from blue mountains to simple pink? How about my navigation menu to include “literary travel” and “beginners guides?” I even shuffled around my Pinterest boards to move the “flying fear” and “literary” boards to the very top. My specialties – literary travel and travel with anxiety – are in your face.
It’s not enough to have a niche. You need to make said-niche clear to new visitors.
The internet has made us impatient. I know I have the attention span of a gnat. You only have a second or two to make a good first impression, so don’t leave people guessing your blog’s purpose.
3. Don’t Forget an Editorial Calendar
Readers love clean consistency. It’s something I need to work on. Usually I write whatever comes to my mind and post it. Those days are long gone. Goodnight, Sweet Prince of Spontaneity.
An editorial calendar will help you stay focused for the sake of your readers. After spending time with Anne, who was my mentor, I now have eight different themed posts planned for each month.
While I know I may fall off the wagon (*cough* lazy moments *cough*) at least this calendar will attempt to keep me on the correct path. For my own calendar, I use Evernote’s free version to organize my jumbled thoughts. You can also install Evernote as an app on your phone.
4. Your Blog can be a Portfolio
Honestly, it’s super difficult to rely on traffic numbers alone to transform your blog into a full-fledged business. It takes years to build an audience, let alone a massive audience. My own numbers are pretty fickle. They soar one month and then crash the next month.
However, don’t despair! Your pageviews aren’t all that matter to brands and DMOs. You can use your blog as a portfolio for other work opportunities.
Let’s say you want to work as a freelance writer for a big magazine, or a PR specialist for a travel or hotel company. Your blog is now your own colorful interactive resume! Rock it!
5. Get on Pinterest! Like yesterday!
If you’re not making pinnable graphics, then you’re missing out on new followers and heaps of traffic.
Most of my traffic comes from Pinterest, which makes sense. Travel is extremely visual. We want to see a place. Plus, if a pin goes viral, you’re looking at thousands of potential hits. In my opinion, use Twitter to connect with bloggers/brands and focus on Pinterest for pageviews on your site.
6. Travel Blogging Ain’t Easy
You want a four day work week? Travel blogging probably isn’t for you. Look into passive income instead. BlogHouse reinforced that travel bloggers are “on” 24/7.
For instance, I lost track of how many photos I took. I couldn’t just eat if I wanted to eat; I had to get the perfect angle and then take a pretty shot of my food. On our open air bus tour, I couldn’t lean back and savor the views without taking a lot of well-angled shots first. Leisure? What’s that?
It’s time for me to give a controversial opinion. I think a lot of people read travel blogs, get stars in their eyes over those “this could be YOUR life too!” posts, and then think blogging’s a dream career where “free” trips fall into their laps.
Not the case. To make your travel blog successful, you need to treat it like a business and put in the effort and money. Preferably from Day #1.
Work. Hard. There’s no way around it.
Was attending BlogHouse worth the time and cost?
Um. Yes. Absolutely. Navigate Media only accepts a small group of bloggers (fewer than 15), so you receive individualized attention from everyone.
Like I mentioned, Anne was my mentor, and her one-on-one site audit was worth its weight in gold! You can’t put a price tag on personalized feedback.
Plus we had the opportunity to attend Industry Night at Sofitel Philadelphia and connect with other professionals in the industry. I had a great time discussing my site with BlogHouse graduates like Lance from Travel Addicts and Chanel from Cultural Xplorer. Furthermore, I made valuable connections with professionals working for Context Travel, Cashman & Associates, and Visit Philly.
And now for our “up and coming” bloggers!
I highly recommend checking out these blogs. Each person is committed to creating quality work. Their enthusiasm at BlogHouse spoke volumes to me, and I hope they inspire you, too. Happy reading.
- Amanda Carnagie — Unresting Sea
- Danielle Des — The Thought Card
- Delia Harrington — Away She Goes
- Gina Zammit — Gina Zammit
- Jennifer Huber — Solo Travel Girl
- Julian James — GlobeSlice
- Juliana Dever — Clever Dever Wherever
- Katie MacLeod-English — Stories My Suitcases Could Tell
- Kimi Sugiyama — Sushiyama Travels
- Lee Blackwood — Eat Travel Cook
- Marie-France Roy — Big Travel Nut
- Marissa Pedersen — Postcards to Seattle
- Rachel Elizabeth (me, yay!) — Blond Wayfarer
- Valerie Stimac — Valerie & Valise
Are you working on a travel blog? What tips for success would you like to share? Again, I would like to thank the sponsors who made BlogHouse Philly possible for us: Sonesta Philadelphia, Context Travel, Visit Philly, Travel Blog Success, and Sofitel Philadelphia.