How to Start a Travel Blog (and Make Money!)
Update May 2020: I am no longer hosting this blog with BlueHost. Amid several technical problems and horrible reviews, I have decided to switch over to SiteGround. So far I am extremely pleased with their service and would highly recommend them.
This blog contains my affiliate link for SiteGround. If you click on the link and then purchase SiteGround web hosting, I will get a small percentage.
So you want to start a travel blog…
Then you’ve come to the right place! Starting a travel blog has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me. I can keep my friends and family updated on my adventures, and pass on my experience to my readers. 9 to 5 Voyager is like a database for everything I’ve learned, all the people I’ve met, and all the fun I’ve had while on the road.
Blogging can also be a platform for making money. You shouldn’t expect to make any real income for probably the first year, but it is a good source of what we call passive income. If you keep up with it, you can recoup your upfront costs and start earning a little bit of side money.
How much money? According to a survey conducted by Sharon Gourlay, author of DigitalNomadWannabe.com, you can reasonably expect to make $200/mo. after costs, after about two years. However, about 15 percent of bloggers reported making between $2,500 and $5,000/mo. after costs. Some of the most popular travel blogs pull in six figures year after year! With patience and dedication, you can turn this fun hobby into a lucrative enterprise!
I’ll be honest, most bloggers don’t make quit-your-job money, but it is absolutely possible. At the very least, you could be making some passive income to help fund your travels while doing something you enjoy.
Glossary of Terms
I’ll tell you right now that, if you really want to get your blog up and running and earning money, you’re going to have to teach yourself a lot. If you’re not familiar with terms like SEO, CPM, or self-hosting, then you’ll need to do a bit of research. Don’t worry though; I didn’t know about any of this, either! It takes some reading, but anyone can learn these concepts, and how to put them to use.
CPM stands for Clicks Per Mille. In this case, it refers to the cost of an ad per 1,000 views. It basically means how much money you’ll earn from an ad for every 1,000 times readers view it. I’ll go into more detail on CPM and other web advertising terms in a later article.
Domain Authority. In other words, how popular and respected your page is relative to other pages like it. For example, in the world of social media, Facebook and Instagram both have DA’s of 100. You can check your DA score using this link, although that’s something to worry about after you’ve written some content. A number of factors affect your DA, from the length of time it’s been around, to how many articles you’ve written, to how many other websites link back to your blog.
Think of plug-ins like apps on a smartphone. The plug-in is the app, and your website is the smartphone. Plug-ins like Jetpack, Yoast SEO, MailChimp, and others will really help you get the most out of your blog. They can help improve the loading speed of your site, optimize ads, help turn your readers into subscribers, and much more.
Where you pay a third-party service to store your website on their secure servers. Essentially, you use one company to create the content on your website but store the website itself with another company. I’ll explain this further below.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It basically determines how quickly you come up in Google searches. For example, if someone does a Google search for “how to start a travel blog,” good SEO will help your result come up on page 1 instead of page 10.
SEO is extremely important if you want to monetize your blog.
Steps to Start a Travel Blog (and Start Making Money!)
Every blogger’s journey is different, but there are some general steps you should take if you want to really get into travel blogging. Keep in mind that this list will be written through the lens of eventually monetizing your content.
Read on for steps on how to start a travel blog!
1. Come Up With a Solid Name
The very first thing you should do is come up with a good name. The name of your blog should check a few boxes:
- It should describe what you’re about. I went with “9 to 5 Voyager” because A) I’m a traveler, and B) I work full-time. Come up with something that captures your identity well.
- It should be memorable. Imagine this: you meet someone at a sidewalk cafe and tell them about your blog. They should be able to remember the name of it after hearing it.
- It should be adaptable. For example, if you go with something like TravelingInMyTwenties.com, what happens when you hit 30? Just make sure your name is reasonably future-proof.
This can take some time, but you want a good name that will stick with you. Get a couple of friends or family members together and brainstorm some ideas.
Pro Tip: Also start thinking about a logo. Like your name, you want your logo to really capture the essence of your blog. You can create your own, use a service like Fiverr, or talk with a friend who’s a graphic designer. My logo was created by Jakub Nowak, an Austin-based designer who happened to be the husband of a coworker. You can find his incredible work here.
2. Set Up a WordPress Account
WordPress, WordPress, WordPress. I really wouldn’t worry about any other platform. Sure, some people use Blogger or Blogspot or some other platform, but WordPress is the tried and true standard for quality blogs.
This is where the investment comes in. Luckily, basic WordPress accounts don’t cost much for a one-year membership.
3. Get Self-Hosting
The concept of self-hosting can seem unnecessary on paper, but believe me, you’ll want to do it.
If you have a WordPress blog, then your website automatically goes on a WordPress server. You technically don’t own your site, WordPress does. Which is okay, if you’re just starting out. However, if you want true ownership of your site, as well as access to plug-ins, you really want to go self-hosted. Self-hosting means you own your own website, even though it is hosted on other servers.
In other words, you’ll use WordPress to write and edit your site, but your site will be run by another company.
Self-hosting has numerous advantages. Self-hosted servers are faster, they give you more control over your website, and they allow you to take advantage of plug-ins at much lower rates than if you got them through WordPress. Free versions of plug-ins actually come with most subscriptions!
I use SiteGround for my web hosting. I made that decision for a couple of reasons:
- WordPress compatibility.
- Very good reviews across the board.
- Some of the fastest upload times in the field.
- Reliable servers.
Get SiteGround Using My Link!
I like BlueHost so much, I feel confident endorsing them. Use the link below to purchase your new domain!
Right now you can get a special price for the StartUp tier of hosting at only $3.95/month. Normally, SiteGround is more expensive, but also much more reliable and faster than other hosting providers. This special price is an absolute steal for what they offer. Don’t forget that you will also need to register a domain name, for $15.95/year. Right now they are also running a special two years for the price of one offer.
I used to use BlueHost, but I had a number of issues with them, particularly website downtimes. Perhaps most egregiously, I was unable to use JetPack, a very popular and important plug-in to have on a WordPress site. Why SiteGround can run this plug-in perfectly but BlueHost experienced severe issues is beyond me.
I had also read several negative testimonies about EIG, the company that owns BlueHost, as well as other hosting providers like HostGator. They have a track record of buying up companies and then essentially running them into the ground. I hope that SiteGround does not meet the same fate, because I have zero problems with their service so far.
Everything I’ve mentioned up until now has really just been set-up. Now comes the real meat and potatoes of starting a travel blog: writing content!
If there is one piece of advice I can give you, it’s this: Done is better than perfect.
At first, you’ll be writing travelogues for your friends and family. They won’t be perfect, and they won’t need to be. It’s perfectly fine to just to get the thing written, publish it, share it, and then go back later on to tweak it.
If you want to go the monetization route, then you will need to take your blogging game to the next level. Plug-ins like Yoast SEO will provide easy-to-follow tips to improve your post’s SEO and readability.
Writing Unique Content
I can understand that some new travelers may be dissuaded by other travel blogs already out there. I myself did not want to start a travel blog for a long time because I thought every place had already been explored and written about.
But then I remembered something my dad, a screenwriter, used to say to me: “Every story has already been told, so what matters is how you tell your story.”
In other words, a lot of people may have been to Paris or to Thailand, but your experience of those places is unique.
This is nothing new. In the famous adventure novel Kon-Tiki, written back in the 1940s, Thor Heyerdahl goes to visit an anthropologist friend who is writing a paper. The anthropologist laments how publishers were looking more and more for specialization, not generalization.
The same holds true for travel bloggers today.
I can also tell you that unique content ranks the best in SEO. Think about it: how many people are searching for tips on visiting New York, versus those searching for tips on visiting Papua New Guinea? Having more unique experiences will mean you’re writing about something not everyone and their dog has done.
Having said that, once again, don’t get discouraged. Finding your niche will come with time. Don’t worry about specializing right off the bat. Worry about honing your craft, and writing as much and as well as you can.
5. Partner with Ad Services
Google AdSense will help you place ads on your website that can start generating revenue. Unlike WordAds, Google Ads are free with a BlueHost subscription, and much more effective. In my experience, they are 2-3 times more valuable. These do create income from views alone but at a rather low rate. The true power of Google Ads lies in CPM and in CPC, Cost Per Click. I’ll go into detail on those in another post.
Eventually, once you start getting more views and a higher DA, you can apply to sites like Ezoic and MediaVine, which will really boost your earnings.
There are plenty of Facebook groups out there for new and seasoned travel bloggers. Groups like Bloggers Supporting Bloggers, DNW – Making Money From Blogging, and Low DA Bloggers Support Group are invaluable resources. Some of these will even have threads to get a lot of clicks and views on your site, boosting your viewership, and thus making your ads worth more.
Plus, it’s just a helpful group of people all going through the same thing and helping you answer any questions you might have. I would highly recommend looking for collaboration opportunities, where you can write short posts that feature on other, more established blogs.
That should be enough information to get you started. Have any other questions about how to start a travel blog? Leave me a comment below or shoot me an email. I’m always happy to help!