As a new travel blogger, you can often feel like you’re a tiny anthill sitting amongst a bunch of mountains, unseen and barely noticed. It might seem to you that there is absolutely no hope when it comes to growing your travel blog or gaining interest from readers, companies, and other blogs. You shouldn’t fret though, we’ve all been there. Every single blogger has started from the very bottom with zero readers and influence, and somehow has managed to work their way up to where they are today.
Growing a blog takes dedication, commitment, research, and time.
Every once in a blue moon, a blog will pop out of nowhere and grow from 100 to 100,000 readers overnight and it leaves us wondering how the heck they did it. Going viral isn’t something we can really control nor is it something we should focus on as it’s not really a realistic goal especially if you’re just starting out with your blog. If you’re serious about your blog, and you know it’s something you want to do long-term, write down a few long-term goals of where you would like to see your blog/business 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years from now. Be aware that you’re going to have to put in work to establish yourself within the blogging community; you can’t just expect people to come to you out of nowhere.
I often get asked how I grew this blog so quickly (which really wasn’t that quickly…it took me a solid 3 years to get to where I am today), so I wanted to write down a few key steps below to help you in your own blogging adventure. You may already be aware of some of these, but it’s always nice to have a good reminder!
1. Know your niche.
I honestly had zero direction with my blog for the first year and a half. I would have actually considered my blog more of a lifestyle/expat blog due to the fact that I wrote posts on food, hair, foreign culture, and daily life. I also actively participated in link-ups and giveaways. Without having a solid genre for my blog, it was really difficult to feel inspired, and I often felt way overwhelmed with the stuff I wanted to share yet somehow make interesting to my readers.
Traveling has always been a passion (duh). My absolute favorite posts to write were the ones that had to do with our travels, so I decided to slowly merge LIAL into a full blown travel blog (with the occasional expat post mixed in). I love sharing the world with others, inspiring and educating people to get out there and go explore themselves.
All that to say, once you find what you’re passionate about, you’ll be excited to write too! Market yourself within your niche and get the word out that you are fully committed to doing this ‘travel blog’ thing and you may just surprise yourself with what you can achieve and who notices you!
2. Reach out to others in the industry.
Is there someone you really look up to in the travel blogging world? Reach out to them and try to connect via social media. I’m hesitant to encourage you to send them an email, because I know as a blogger, sometimes after getting 30+ emails a day, messages can easily get overlooked. Before you reach out, be sure to look through the blogger’s archives and categories and see if they’ve written any posts that will help you understand where they came from and how they got started in the industry. You don’t want to be ‘that person’ that asks a zillion questions only to find out they’ve all been answered within a few old blog posts.
3. Give your blog a professional makeover.
If you’re really wanting to get serious about this whole blogging thing enough to make money off of it, you’re going to have to invest a little yourself. Potential advertisers will be checking out your site, you you want to make sure it’s correctly reflecting you and what you’re trying to ‘sell’ to them. Think professional, clean, well-organized, and with a spark of personality. Over the years I’ve changed my design more times than I would like to admit until I settled on one that I think correctly represents what LIAL is, and has a big focus on the content/pictures I publish.
There are quite a few pre-made blog designs out there now for purchase, or you could consider hiring a designer for a unique one-of-a-kind look. Feel free to send me an email if you have any questions about either premades or custom designs! I actually work full time as a web/blog designer and would be more than happy to help you get started!
4. Consider diving all in with a self-hosted site.
Want to take your blog one step further? Consider self-hosting it. This means moving away from a free blogging platform (such as WordPress.com and Blogger) and establishing yourself as your own: owning your own content, not being restricted or tied down by things you’re not allowed to do on WP.com or Blogger, and getting your own .com address!
Switching to WordPress.org can be super confusing and frustrating, so I would suggest hiring someone (I do transfers as well!!) to do it for you if you have a little extra cash laying around. As far as finding a good hosting company, you have TONS out there to choose from! I have used Bluehost for the last 2 years and absolutely love them and their customer support! They also offer a FREE backup service if your site is ever (shutters) hacked or erased and can restore your site for free from a backup they do automatically twice a week! How amazing is that?!
It’s actually INSANE what transferring to WordPress.org can do for you. After I transferred I went from 10,000 views in one year (on WordPress.com) to over 700,000 the second! I actually wrote a post on benefits of transferring here, check it out for more details.
5. Brand yourself.
After figuring out all that design, self-hosted, and niche stuff, you’ve got to focus on branding yourself. Claim social network handles across the web that work easily enough with your blog name. If your blog has a super long name like mine, sites like Twitter won’t let you have the whole name, so you’ll have to shorten it a bit. I try to stick with @livinginanotherlanguage when I can, but if I’m not permitted to, I’ll use @inanotherlangua. The reason why it’s important to grab social media handles that correlate with you blog name is so people can find you easy and mention you in shares or comments!
If your blog name is ‘Living in Another Language’ there is no way someone will find you if your twitter handle is ‘@pinksparkles102’. Just. No. Way.
6. Post often enough you’re not forgotten.
A lot of people claim the ‘5 days a week’ rule is the way to go when growing a blog. I disagree. If you don’t have anything worthwhile or important to write, don’t write at all. I don’t know about you, but I can totally tell when a post is lack-lusterly written, and it really annoys me. It’s taken me months to not feel guilty about only writing once or twice a week (three times if I’m really rockin’ it), but I know if I limit myself I’ll be able to share better posts with you guys.
That being said, if you only post once a month (even though it’s an INSANELY AWESOME POST) people who read blogs daily will have a hard time placing who you are. There are some aggressive bloggers out there now days that DO actually publish quality posts every day, and they put the rest of us to shame. They also tend to drown out everyone else, so we have to work extra hard to make sure our few posts each week are extra good. Am I right?
7. Research ways to make your blog better.
The blogging world is always changing. What are the latest and greatest plugins? Who is the best hosting company? How can I monetize my blog? Where can I share my content? If you look back at posts written about these topics 6-12 months ago (or even further if you want a good laugh), they’ll be different than what people are writing about them today. Technology always changes and evolves, and this includes the blogging/writing industry! Keep up-to-date with the current trends and research as much as you possibly can! Good ol’ Google Search produces wonders.
8. Purchase good camera equipment.
I can’t encourage this enough, especially if you’re a travel blogger. Since you’ll most likely be sharing travel experiences and suggestions on your blog, it’s clearly important you have good pictures and documentation so others can physically see what you’re writing so highly about. Camera phones are great, but sometimes they have a hard time capturing, in detail and quality, the world around you.
Please don’t go out and purchase the most expensive camera on the shelf, but do look into getting one well suited for travel and producing quality images. I will ALWAYS promote a camera that has a good wide angle lens (for those interior hotel room shots or landscapes), so if you can find anything with a lens starting at or below 16mm-18mm you’ll be golden! I wrote a post the other week on what camera equipment Derik and I use here.
9. Write posts that help readers.
This is something I’m still learning. We all have a somewhat bad taste in our mouth from the whole ’10 things to do when…” posts, but we still all write them because, for some reason, they always tend to be the most popular. You want to know why? People like lists, structures, and most importantly self-help posts. We like to know how we can achieve something, create something, and work through something. It’s ok to write recap posts about the time you cuddled a koala bear or swam with wild dolphins, but it’s super hard for readers to relate to them or write a comment other than “I hope I can do that someday”. Readers want to know HOW they can do that too, not just check out your pretty pictures and commentary.
I try to mix up my travel documentation with a post or two that will benefit and inspire readers, and also spark interaction within my comment threads (the best)! When you are able to share your knowledge with others so they can do something similar to what you’re doing, I guarantee you’ll be seeing blog growth in a way you weren’t before!
10. Join Travel Blog Success.
I don’t know why it took me so long to finally pay for a membership to TBS, but I’m SO GLAD I DID. If it feels like you’re floundering with the whole travel blogging thing, please consider joining. Not only are there 46 lessons on how to make your travel blog the best it can be (covers all things: setting up your blog, creating content, developing traffic, making money, and growing your business), but there are support forms, opportunity boards, and a heck of a lot more waiting for you once you become a member! The things you will learn from Travel Blog Success will be more valuable than anything you could ever read in a single blog post.