Getting paid to travel is pretty high on the dream-job list for anyone—and a few actually make it happen. The almost-too-good-to-be-true career doesn’t build itself overnight, but it’s possible if you’re willing to put in the work. Here’s how to start your own travel blog.
Find Your Travel Identity
You may think the first step is to “just do it,” but it’s best to give serious thought to what you’re about to set up—and spend money on—before you make the leap. What do you enjoy? What is your brand? What makes you different?
At the end of the day, your blog is you, and you are selling yourself. Research what’s already out there, and find the niche you fall into. When setting up your blog, think about the colors and images you associate with how you travel. Create a name that is SEO-friendly and concise, and gets across who you want to be. If you’re not crazy about what you come up with, keep brainstorming. You’ll feel it when it’s right.
Dreaming of becoming a travel blogger? The almost-too-good-to-be-true career doesn’t build itself overnight, but it’s possible if you’re willing to put in the work.
Build a Site
Once you know what you want to create, it’s time to create it. The go-to site is WordPress. You’ll need to get an account, buy a domain separately and choose (or buy) a theme, and you’re on your way.
If you aren’t comfortable with design and coding, you could start off on Squarespace, Weebly or Wix. Squarespace makes creating a stunning site look like child’s play. But keep in mind that if WordPress is like a Swiss army knife—it does a lot of things, but it requires skill to use efficiently—Squarespace is a bullet: It does one thing (visuals) incredibly well and with precision. If you need “scissors” at some point, Squarespace can’t help you. That being said, both sites will get you where you need to be, especially at the beginning.
Create Good Content—Consistently
Good content means two things: good content for both your audience and Google.
Good content for your audience is fairly straightforward: It’s well-written, valuable and not about you (that third part is surprisingly difficult for many bloggers). You get bonus points for awesome photos and videos that supplement your articles.
Good content for Google is a bit more complex. SEO matters, and it’s constantly changing. Read up on the latest practices and how to use headers, keywords and metadata, and you’re on your way to achieving page results and a high domain authority ranking.
And, of course, you have to create good content regularly. Posting at random and on occasion will result in any audience you achieve forgetting all about you, because you forgot all about them. Always, always, always give them a reason to come back for more.
Rock Social Media—Consistently
Where Google’s power leaves off, Facebook’s picks up. Schedule regular posts, pictures and others’ posts related to your blog, and interact with everyone you can. The more active you are, the more active your following. Join Facebook groups dedicated to travel blogging, and exchange promotions with like-minded writers. Much of the community is a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of place.
Then there’s Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and whatever the latest trend of the hour might be (who remembers Vine and Periscope?). The more platforms you can be on, the better … if you can do them well. If Snapchat, for example, doesn’t appeal to you, don’t force it—your audience will know.
Network, Network, Network
The first step to networking? Reading other travel blogs. What are you doing differently? What are you doing better or worse? Who’s really nailing it, and whom would you like to meet? Reading blogs is the only way this will happen.
Then, leave comments on these blogs. Follow them on Facebook. Reply to every comment you get, and interact with the Facebook groups you’ve joined. Do guests posts, join Instagram pods and invite others to do the same on your site. Get your byline out in the world by writing for websites. The more people you know and the more websites you can be found on, the better your SEO and the bigger your audience. Just like any other community, succeeding here can depend on whom you know.
You can start right away with programs like Google AdSense, but the real money will come once you have a strong, loyal audience. Join affiliate marketing sites (including Amazon), research brand ambassador programs, and be open to sponsored posts (this includes on Instagram) and press trips. When you’re established, consider crafting an e-book or selling your own products. The more ways the money can make itself while you’re sleeping (or traveling), the better.
Persevere—And Keep Traveling
Blogs don’t build themselves overnight, and even Google takes into account “how long you’ve been around” when determining site rank. As long as you keep updating your techniques, producing good content and investing in and selling yourself (you bought tickets to that local travel conference, right?), a snowball effect will occur and your blog will grow. Remember: You’re playing the long game, and success comes to those who keep going. Consider it a good excuse to travel more.
Tell Us What You Think
What’s your dream job? We want to hear from you. Share your aspirations in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.
Jacqueline is a freelance travel writer, blogger and editor for kimkim.com who hails from America’s heartland. A competitive Scrabble player and self-professed national parks geek, she also takes a decent photograph and makes a mean chocolate cake.