Welcome to my travel blogging for beginners guide!
Starting a professional and profitable travel blog is complicated if you don’t know what you’re doing. I started my travel blog in 2016, and now I work full time as a travel blogger, travelling around Scotland and abroad!
Yes, I actually make enough money to support myself now, through this website. Isn’t that pretty awesome?
I actually started my blog as a passion project. I once worked as a journalist, and when I decided to go travelling I wanted to continue writing. And so, Wayfaring Kiwi was born.
Since I’ve started Wayfaring Kiwi I’ve been featured in online publications such as Lonely Planet, the Daily Mail, Stuff.co.nz and She Went Wild. Some of my travel is even paid for- recently I was paid to drive the North Coast 500, attend the Edinburgh Festivals, and even go hiking!
The surprising thing about travel blogging is you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get started- I’m talking less than $150.
Starting a business for less than $150 is insane. Obviously, you have to invest in your business for it to grow, but for my first year of blogging I barely spent anything.
I started my career as a blogger taking photos on my Samsung Galaxy S6, or borrowed cameras from friends. In 2018 I purchased my first real piece of camera equipment, the Sony A6500 (also you can click here to read my guide on photography and why I love this camera for blogging). The most important thing about blogging is that you start. You can always improve your blog as you go [and you will constantly make improvements].
I did hundreds of hours worth of research when creating my blog. I spent all-nighters on building Wayfaring Kiwi. This is why I’ve written this guide, Travel Blogging for Beginners, so you can have the best start to your career as a travel blogger and start profiting from your writing right away.
This post combines over 3 years of my blogging knowledge and experience- it’s everything that I would apply if I were to start a new blog today.
I’ve included some exercises throughout this blog post, so you will need a notebook to jot down ideas for your blog. Go and grab one now!
Let’s dive in- trying langos in Budapest on a recent blogging campaign
Travel Blogging for Beginners Step One: The Planning Phase
Do you already have an idea for what your travel blog should be about? Great! If not, don’t worry- I’m here to help.
The first step of the blogging process is to discover your niche. Answer these three questions:
1) Choose your theme and a name for your blog
There are over 600 million blogs in existence- what are you going to write about that is different from the rest?
When you choose your theme or niche, this will help you to choose your blog’s name.
I’ll be honest, I did the reserve when I started my blog. I picked the name Wayfaring Kiwi because I just liked the sound of it. When I started my blog my travel style was very random. I was a solo female traveller living and travelling around Canada in a van, going on random adventures, and I didn’t have much of a plan.
Since then I’ve grown and so has my blog- and my travel style is pretty different.
I’m now married, I live in Scotland and that’s my permanent base, and have grown to love slow travel, hiking and other outdoor adventures.
I’m quite lucky that ‘Wayfaring Kiwi’ is a broad enough term that it grew with me. I’m even luckier that ‘wayfaring’ means ‘to travel by foot’ which is great as one of my blogs niches is hiking!
But for your blog, I recommend you nail down your niches before choosing your blog’s name. I don’t believe in having a single niche, nor do I think having a broad travel blog is sensible. There are so many other blogs to compete with- and you need to stand out. But you also don’t want to trap yourself in a single niche in case your travel style changes [which it will].
I recommend choosing several niches.
For example, my niches are: Scotland travel, hiking, and outdoor adventures that are suitable for all fitness levels. My niches overlap too- for example I love writing about hiking in Scotland.
I also write about travel in Europe- seeing as Scotland is a great base to explore Europe from. I suggest you choose 3-4 and build your content around these topics.
When you choose your name, be sure to choose something you could use in case you want to change your niche to something completely different one day.
Avoid using the following overused and cliched terms as part of your website: nomadic, wanderlust, wandering, wanderer etc. You want to be original, unique and memorable to your audience.
Do a quick Google search of your planned blog name to ensure that name isn’t already taken, or that there isn’t something very similar to it. You don’t want readers trying to access your website and ending up elsewhere- or annoy another blogger!
Also do a search on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to see if your blog username is available.
Exercise: Jot down up to 10 niches for your blog. Now go through and underline the two main niches that you most want to write about, and then underline two more in the list that are related to your main niches.
An epic sunrise I witnessed while working on a campaign promoting the Isle of Skye
2) What value am I going to give my readers?
You don’t start a professional travel blog for yourself. You create it to provide value to your readers.
People don’t generally like to read ‘dear diary’ content. They like to read content that resonates with them, inspires them, educates them. Think about it this way, would you rather read a post titled ‘My trip to Edinburgh’ or ‘5 Things You Can’t Miss When Visiting Edinburgh?’
Readers are far more likely to click on the second link; it drums up excitement, they know they are going to get some great tips for their trip and it also adds pressure for them to click by making them think ‘what will I miss out on if I don’t read this?!’
Once your blog has been live for a few months you can also see who is reading your blog and where they are from. I’m a New Zealander blogging about Scotland and Europe yet my largest audience is from the USA, then the UK and then Canada, so now I try and cater my content to these countries.
Exercise: On page 2 of your notebook, write down some ideas of content that you think your future readers would be interested in. Some examples include packing lists, how to plan a trip to x destination, unusual things to do etc.
3) How can I monetize my blog?
There are multiple ways you can make money from your blog.
You can start making money right away with affiliate marketing, travel itinerary planning [assuming you know a destination really well], and sponsored posts, but you need to be more patient if you’d like to monetize through having ads on your website.
Ezoic requires a minimum of 10,000 website sessions to your blog in 30 days, and Mediavine [the ad network I use] requires you to have 25,000 sessions to your blog in 30 days.
I believe you can start earning money from Google Adsense in as little as two months if you meet their criteria. Many bloggers hold off applying for an ad network until they reach 25,000 sessions. Ads slow down a website, which can impact people finding your blog on Google [website speed is a Google ranking factor].
It’s up to you what you choose to do- I have used all three ad networks, and changing from Adsense to Ezoic and then to Mediavine as my website traffic increased.
Exercise: Read this post on how to make money from blogging and jot down a few ways you would like to make money from your blog.
Step 2: Buy your domain name and set up hosting
So by now you’ve chosen your niches, your blog name and you have a few ideas on how you’re going to monetize your blog. Now it’s time to create your blog!
Many travel bloggers use Siteground for hosting. I am also a freelance website designer and host all of my client’s websites with Siteground. I love them because they have fantastic support- you can chat with a representative online at any time.
They offer a free SSL certificate which makes your website secure and is essential now if you want your website to rank well on Google and sell products on your website.
Sign up with the cheapest plan and you can always upgrade later when your website traffic grows or you require premium services, such as having more than one domain name associated with your hosting.
Step 3: Install WordPress
When it comes to the whole Blogger, Wix or WordPress debacle GO FOR WORDPRESS.
Trust me on this one. Almost all bloggers end up switching to WordPress from Blogger/Wix/Squarespace anyway- and that’s a huge pain in the backside because you’re most likely going to have to hire a website designer to do the switch.
I find WordPress easy to use and the majority of websites on the internet use it for good reason.
Installing WordPress on your Siteground hosting is easy- watch this video below to see how:
Once you have installed WordPress, head to http://yourdomainname.com/wp-admin to log in to your website with the username and password you chose when you installed WordPress.
Remember, if you ever get stuck, Siteground has an online chat system so you can ask any questions!
Step 4: Choose a theme
Now it’s time for the fun part! I suggest you sit down and have a good think about how you want your website to look and what aspects you want it to have.
WordPress comes with some free themes, but they are very basic and your website will look identical to many others out there.
When I was searching for templates to use for my blog, I wanted something that was super easy to use, allowed me to place adverts on my website, have a slider on my homepage, list my most recent blog posts on my homepage, and have a sidebar that I could add photos with links to.
The first template I purchased was very glitchy and it didn’t allow me to change much. So make sure you read the template reviews to see any common problems associated with that template!
ThemeForest is a great place to start when looking for a WordPress theme. Many of these themes cost under $50 and offer 6 months worth of support so you can ask as many questions as you like if you’re confused.
Most themes will come with an instruction guide on how to install your template, and this usually takes around 10 minutes to do.
I currently use the free Astra theme with the Elementor page builder. I love this combination because it allows me to design every aspect of my website using drag and drop technology. This combo does require a bit of WordPress knowledge to install- so if you’re starting out I recommend buying a pre-made template from ThemeForest and once your website building skills are better, you can consider something like Astra and Elementor.
Exercise: Make a list of features of what you want your dream website theme to include.
Travel blogging has allowed me to see some of the most spectacular sites in the world
Step 5: Personalise your website
Every professional website needs a professional logo. You can either create one yourself, or pay for someone to design one for you.
Canva: Canva is a great option if you are wanting to design your own logo because it is free to use. Once you create an account, sign in and experiment with the different banner options.
Fiverr: If you’d like an affordable logo designed for you, I suggest Fiverr. You can browse designers profiles and see how much they charge for a simple logo.
I also recommend coming up with a colour theme for your website. This is important for establishing your brand as it helps readers to recognise you. It’s proven that people are more likely to click on a link from a brand they recognise than one they don’t.
Canva has a brand kit you can use with their pro version. You can also Google ‘website brand kit examples’ and make your own.
I recommend picking up to four colours- two main colours and two secondary. For example, my main colour is purple, my secondary colour is turquoise and my two other colours are light pink/purple and light grey [scroll to the bottom of this page to see my social media icons- I use this colour scheme there].
Exercise: Do a logo brainstorm. What do you want to incorporate in your logo? Create a brand kit with at least four colours, a font for headings and a font for your body text.
Step 6: Use the right plugins
Your website template will usually come with a list of plugins to download, but in case they aren’t listed, here are some of my favourites:
Akismet Anti-Spam [free and paid]: If you build it…the spammers will come. This plugin filters through the spam for you, so you don’t have to spend hours going through each comment manually.
Lazy Load for Comments [free]: Loads comments only after the user clicks on a see more button. It saves page load time.
UpdraftPlus [free]: Allows you to backup your website manually [very important!]
Wordfence [free]: Anti-virus, Firewall and Malware Scan. Helps to prevent your website from being hacked.
WP Fastest Cache [free] or WP Rocket [paid- I use this]: Allows you to delete your website cache so your website is running at optimum speed.
WP Smush [free] or Shortpixel [paid- I use this]: Automatically reduces the file size of any photos uploaded.
Yoast SEO [free]: This plugin is also a necessity. Yoast SEO (short for ‘search engine optimization’) improves your Google rankings, which is very important for generating website traffic!
Exercise: Install your chosen plugins.
Step 7: Create delicious content for your website
Before launching your blog I recommend having at least ten blog posts published. I recommend that some of these make up your cornerstone content.
You should also have the following pages:
- About Me. This is a good opportunity to introduce yourself, give some background on yourself and your blog, and mention your niches. You can see how I do this on my About page.
- Contact Me. Include a form your readers can fill out if they want to contact you, and let them know the best way they can reach you. Check out my Contact page to see an example here.
- Destination pages. I love how Goats On The Road have designed their destination pages.
- Work With Me. If you are wanting to work with tourism businesses to help them promote their brand, you should have a work with me page. On this page you should include your qualifications, experience, and brands you’ve worked with [if applicable]. I also include publications I’ve been quoted or featured in, so that brands know that I am an authority on my subject. See my page for inspiration.
- Media Kit. You don’t have to have your media kit on your website, but you should have one saved on your desktop ready to email to prospective clients that contact you. Be sure to include a little about yourself and your blog,your website statistics, your services and a price list.
Exercise: Start building your cornerstone content. Jot down ideas for 15 different blog posts that you can write about that fit your chosen niches.
Being a fulltime travel blogger means I get to explore Scotland for a living!
Step 8: Drive traffic to your website
I write SEO optimised blog posts, have a Pinterest strategy and use social media to drive traffic to my website.
This might sound like a lot of things to learn and implement- but things change in the blogging world so frequently that it is good to have a robust marketing plan in place in case one of these platforms decides to stop sending you website traffic. Example: Google updates their algorithm so often that it would be silly to just concentrate on SEO.
You will also have more luck with some social media platforms than others. Facebook works really well for me and I have an active group with over 7,500 members – so a lot of my traffic comes from there.
Instagram doesn’t work so well for me re website traffic. I use it more as a platform to share my favourite photos and travel advice [everything disappears down the feed on Facebook] and having an active account helps me to land brand campaigns.
I don’t have a huge following on Twitter, and I don’t use the platform that much. I pretty much just tweet my new blog posts and that’s it!
Pinterest is another great marketing platform for bloggers that brings you instant traffic, and has a longer shelf life than other social media.
I have written a detailed, comprehensive guide on how I use Pinterest to generate over 7,000 hits to my website every month.
Most bloggers charge people to access this sort of information, but I’m offering it to everyone for free. Check it out, and I hope it helps!
Exercise: Read my Pinterest guide and choose one social media platform you’re going to focus on and go all in!
Useful Facebook Groups For Travel Bloggers
Want to know where the travel bloggers hang out? Here are some amazing Facebook groups I recommend you join:
Pinterest repin groups
- Pinterest for Travel Bloggers
- Travel Bloggers Guide to Pinterest
- Ultimate Pinterest Group for Travel Bloggers
Travel Blogging for Beginners FAQ
How much do you typically spend when starting a travel blog?
I spent less than $150USD during my first year of blogging. This included purchasing a domain name, hosting, an email address, and two different templates.
In 2019 I spent around £3000 on my blog. This includes subscriptions, camera equipment and travelling expenses. My blog is a business and it is my full time job now, and you have to invest in your blog in order for it to grow.
How can you make money from your travel blog?
I go into detail about how I make money as a travel blogger in this post, but here are some of the main ways I make money from my blog:
Mediavine: As I mentioned earlier in this article, having ads on your website is a great way to make an income from your blog. I recently had my application for Mediavine approved- so I am really looking forward to working with them. Previously I was with Ezoic, who were also great, but their ads did slow my website down significantly. I have heard great things about working with Mediavine from blogging friends.
Amazon Affiliates: Amazon is by far my favourite affiliate program for making money from my blog. You can control exactly what you are advertising on your website. Basically, you post a link to an item that can be purchased on Amazon, and you get a percentage of the sale. It’s important you only post products you use and believe in. People are not silly and if you are trying to advertise a product on your website with the intention of making money and it is not practical for your audience, you will lose readers. Note that you have to make a sale within 90 days of joining to stay in the program.
Booking.com: I recommend my favourite accommodation here and get a kick back from each booking that is made.
Get Your Guide: I love Get Your Guide. I use it myself, and always recommend booking tours and attraction tickets through them.
How long does it take before you can start making money from your blog?
You can start making money right away using affiliate links, however you don’t want to blast your audience with them. Post some articles that are purely advice articles, and then post others with affiliate links. It is a steady climb making money from your blog.
Give yourself at least 1-2 years of blogging before you can expect to make enough money to quit your job.
Making money from blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to write content, rank your posts in Google and build a loyal following. But it is all SO worth it- I promise.
What are some of the misconceptions about being a travel blogger?
I go into detail about some of the common misconceptions about travel bloggers here, but I think one of the biggest ones is that a lot of people don’t see blogging as a career.
It totally is! If I can start a hobby blog and turn it into my full time career, it just proves that you can do it too.
I hope you enjoyed my guide, Travel Blogging for beginners! Have you started a travel blog using this article? Comment below!
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase through these links, I receive a percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. This is how I make money so I can continue bringing you free, informative articles!