So you’re thinking about starting a travel blog and you want someone other than your mother to read it, right? With so many travel blogs out there, adding a fresh one into the mix can be a bit daunting; ‘Who’s going to read it?’, ‘What kind of stuff should I be writing?’, ‘How can I make my blog get noticed?’ There’s a lot to consider! Here are a few tips to help get you started and on the road to writing your brand spanking, killer blog.
1. Identify your niche and find your voice.
There’s no set formula for what should constitute a travel blog – the angle you take is completely up to you – but with so many blogs out there for potential readers to choose from, you need to come up with content and a style that will make your blog stand out from the pack; that is, you need to identify what you are going to write about and how you are going to present it. Do you want your blog to be a chronicle of your adventures around the world or a one-stop-travel-advice-shop? Will it be your well-researched destination advice, your brilliant packing tips or your witty commentary on the latest Japanese fashion fads that sets you apart from the rest? You don’t need to re-invent the wheel, but it certainly pays to put a bit of time into finding your voice before you start.
2. Snoop around.
Now that you know what you want to write about, get blog surfing and take a look at how others are doing it. More often than not there will be someone else out there writing about the same things as you are. How do they present it? What do you like or dislike about their style? Do you have a different take on an issue they’ve discussed? Are there gaps in the content or questions posted by their readers that you can cover in your own posts?
The aim here is not to copy what other bloggers are doing, nor is it to find a topic that no one has ever covered before (you’ll be looking for a long time), but rather to get an idea of what’s already out there and what unique angle you think you can bring to the table. After all, if you’re writing about things that people want to read, your chances of success will increase significantly.
Free resources like Google Wonder Wheel are a great way to suss out what people are searching for (and thus what they want to read about) on your topic. Just search a few key words related to your blog content and the Wheel of Wonder will show you related search topics. Keep clicking around and you’re bound to find something that gets your creative juices flowing.
3. Ask the big kids
I can’t speak for all the blogging communities out there, but the travel bloggers certainly are a friendly bunch. Despite the fact that we are essentially all in competition with one another for readers, I’m constantly surprised at how friendly and helpful the online travel community are with one another – always happy to plug a new post, retweet a link or offer advice when needed. Not all netizens are like this, so use it to your advantage and ask some of the more experienced bigger blogging kids for some tips.
When I was starting out with my blog These Roads I went out on a limb and emailed my favourite travel blogger Suzy Guese with a list of questions about how she built her blogging empire. Not only did Suzy reply with a stupendously helpful email, but she also offered to feature one of my posts in one of her popular weekly segments! The increased traffic I received as a result of that featured post surpassed my expectations ten-fold… and remained my highest traffic day for months.
For more general blogging help, sites like Problogger are a great source of advice on everything from choosing a domain name, to how to monetise your blog and all the nerdy back end web stuff you’re going to have to learn about… like widgets and badges and SEO.
4. Think before you publish.
Writing a good travel blog isn’t just a matter of pumping out post after post of travel-related material- you need to be able to pump out posts of good travel-related material, so be selective with what you publish.
You’ll no doubt have a million things you want to write about, but try to resist the temptation to flood your blog with too many posts all at once. By all means get a good selection up as soon as possible (after all, your readers are going to love your content so much they’ll need a few articles to pour over), just keep in mind that Writer’s Diarrhoea, like Writer’s Block can be a blog killer, so while you may be keen to pour all of your thoughts out onto paper (or screen as the case may be), before hitting that publish button, take a step back and ask yourself a few questions like; ‘Do people really want to read about my infected toe?’ or ‘Is this 5000 word post about my breakfast really that entertaining?’ The answers to these questions may well be ‘yes’, and if so, publish away, just be aware that what is exciting or interesting in real-time, doesn’t always translate the same way in writing… and people won’t hang around a blog for long if they have to go searching for the good bits – the good bits need to jump out and grab them.
5. Socialise and interact.
After writing good content, this is probably the most important thing a blogger can do to attract long-lasting traffic to their site. Everyone wants people to read their blog, but like anything in life, you’ve got to give a little to get a little. How? Get away from your own site for a while and spend time reading the other travel blogs out there. Post comments, engage in discussions, offer your opinions, encourage, affirm, disagree –interact! The more blogs you engage with, the more traffic you will get. By talking to your fellow bloggers and readers you will build a community around your site and your readership will grow. If people can see that you’re taking an interest in what they write, then, hopefully, they’ll return the favour.
Utilize online communities like Stumble Upon and Reddit to promote posts you like (not just your own, but others too). This will expose more people to the links you post thus generating more traffic. If you stumble another bloggers post, let them know about it and chances are they’ll do the same for you.
A few months ago one of my posts was picked up on Reddit and overnight it went crazy. In the few hours that followed, that post received more hits than my entire blog had seen in its short life. Months later, I’m still reaping the benefits of that glorious night, with a continuous flow of views to that post and consequently others on my site.
Make a Facebook page and Twitter account for your blog and follow other travel writers using these networks. Promote your own posts and other posts that you enjoyed reading. Participate in blog carnivals and discussions, make a page on your blog with links to all your favourite bloggers, write guest posts for other sites and ask bloggers to write guest posts for yours – it’s all cross promotion and it all results in promoting your name.
6. Be patient, keep at it and, most importantly, have fun!
They say that a blogger’s first year is the hardest. Things like maintaining momentum, finding readers, beating writer’s block and overcoming occasional bouts of languishing inspiration are things that affect all of us from time to time. In fact, I’m yet to find a blogger who hasn’t, at some point, felt overwhelmed or unsure that they will be able to do all that is required to create and sustain a good blog.
The best advice I’ve been given is to stay flexible and allow room for change, let your blog guide you and write about the things that you find exciting. Don’t waste your time writing posts that you find tedious – if it bores you, chances are everyone else will feel the same. If you find yourself in a rut, don’t give up, just take a breather and change track - there really is an awful lot of trial and error involved in this game and the sky isn’t going fall if you don’t get it right the first time, Chicken Little. Most importantly though, have fun with your blog and enjoy yourself!
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About the Author
Amy Palfreyman is the winner of the 2010 World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship and author of the hilarious travel blog These Roads. When Amy isn't trying to master the art of travel blogging, she can often be found quizzing locals in her quest to sniff out the top of the town for her job as Rough Guides author...then she blogs about this too. Follow her on These Roads for tales of adventure, misfortune, hilarity and the unusual.
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