Are you wondering how to create a travel blog from scratch? Wanna travel the world, write about it and one day be PAID for it? Awesome. This is a great place to start. Here is our step-by-step guide to getting you started with travel blogging
Pro tip: Even if you wanna blog about other things, this can still help you!
If you’re really here to learn how to start a travel blog, that’s super exciting. You’re about to embark on the most exciting, nerve-wracking, frustrating, confusing, awesome, wanna-kill-Instagram time of your life. We started this blog (which is actually more of a travel website these days) way back in September 2016. My gosh, how time flies.
What originally started as a way for me (Rhiannon) to share my travel tips with whoever would listen. I didn’t care too much if anybody read it, to be quite honest. I simply wanted to write. Fast forward a year and half, and we’re in March 2018. Rhiannon Travels has transformed from an online journal, to an informative, fun and free travel guide, aimed at people who are traveling for the first time.
So, we feel pretty confident in saying we know what we’re doing, when it comes to starting a blog. We know the best place to start, how to grow, when to be patient, when really is the best time to throw your phone across the room in an Insta-rage, and everything in between.
So, with all of that being said: here is absolutely everything you need to know before starting your own blog.
Table of Contents
- 1 Step 1: Choosing a Topic
- 2 Step 2: Narrow down that topic (optional)
- 3 Step 3: Choosing a Domain
- 4 Step 4: Choosing a Platform
- 5 Step 5: Set up Google Analytics
- 6 Step 6: Start writing Blog Posts
- 7 Step 7: Proof read your blog posts
- 8 Step 8: Include photos
- 9 Step 9: Publish your post
- 10 Step 10: Promote your post
- 11 Pin it for later!
Step 1: Choosing a Topic
This is obviously going to be step one. Choose a topic that you know well, and can talk about for an annoying amount of time. Knowing your topic well, is literally the first step to success. There’s no point starting a blog about cooking, if you’ve never even turned the oven on before. That’s not gonna work.
If I had a blog about cooking, for instance, you’d be reading about my burnt toast, over-cooked chicken and oh-so-delicious microwave meal. It’s a good thing I write about travel, isn’t it?
Choose a topic that comes naturally. For example, if you’re someone who loves to organise every area of your life, maybe you could start a blog that helps people do the same? You could write a post every time you have a big clean out or after re-organising your kitchen. This way, not only are you being productive and cleaning out all the junk in your life, you’re also helping other people!
Plus, you could even be making money while you’re at it. One day. This is where being patient comes into play. Wanna eventually make money? Make sure you know your topic, and choose something you’re familiar with.
Step 2: Narrow down that topic (optional)
This step is just a suggestion, but say you decide to start a travel blog. How broad do you want that travel blog to be? Maybe you’re a solo female traveler who is backpacking across Europe? Or someone who loves adventure travel? How about a family of four, traveling around Australia in an RV?
If you have a particular niche (fancy word for topic) that you’d like to focus on, awesome! This will give you a higher chance of gaining return readers, because somebody researching that topic will know where to go when they need more tips! Gaining loyal traffic is a great thing, and it’s what you should aim for!
Step 3: Choosing a Domain
This is where things can get tricky. Choosing your topic (or niche) is only the beginning. Now you have to choose your domain name. This will be your website or blog name, and what people type into Google to go directly to your blog. So for example, ours is rhiannontravels.com
Here are a few handy hints for choosing your domain name:
1. Keep it short and sweet – The shorter and easier to remember your domain is, the better. People are more likely to remember something that’s short and to the point, over something that’s long and wordy.
2. Make sure social handles are available – Jump on your personal Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (if you have them) and make sure the handles are available for the domain that you’ve chosen. If they’re not, find one that is and work your domain name around it.
If you don’t have the social media accounts, this is a good time to create one! Don’t worry, you can always change your username later.
3. Choose your domain carefully – It can be pretty hard changing your domain name once you’ve already picked it, created the social accounts and have a number of posts already published. Try to be as certain as possible about your domain name before purchasing it. This will save a lot of headaches in the future!
Step 4: Choosing a Platform
Wait a second. Let me first explain what I mean by a blogging platform. There are a few different directions to go when it comes to blogging. Some choose the free route, which means you create a free account on a website like Blogspot, Wix or WordPress.com. Doing this means your blog is owned by that website, and can be shut down or deleted without warning. Essentially, you don’t own that blog. You’ll be given a sub domain name and won’t be able to customise near as much as you should be.
The other route to take (and what we recommend) is owning your blog. We recommend getting yourself a self-hosted blog through WordPress.org, which means you’ll have full rights to your blog and everything you publish on it. The two most commonly used hosting companies to choose from are Siteground and Bluehost. Each have their pros and cons, and it’s really up to personal preference when it comes to the one you choose.
We use WordPress.org, hosted with Siteground for this blog and our business website. They’re both awesome, and we can’t recommend them enough. Siteground is the only company (that I know of), who provides 24/7 online customer service. If you have an issue, no matter how small or what time of the day or night, jump on chat and they will either walk you through it or do it for you. Totally free of charge. You can even purchase your domain name through Siteground, which makes life a lot easier!
Some other options to choose from are: Wix, Weebly, Squarespace and WordPress.org hosted with Bluehost. As we mentioned, there are a few different ways to go about starting a blog. It all comes down to how successful you want to be, how much money you hope to make and how well you want to rank on Google (SEO). We’ll talk more about those later, though.
Step 5: Set up Google Analytics
Another important step when starting a blog is setting up Google Analytics. This is where you can track how many daily visitors you get, where they are located, how old they are, what pages they looked at, how many times they get themselves a drink… nah, it sounds creepier than it is. Promise. PS. You can’t actually see how many times people get themselves a drink.
Google Analytics is the best way to reach your traffic goals. You can keep an eye on your monthly stats – which are the most important. Don’t concentrate too much on your daily stats. Views will fluctuate, especially during certain times of the year. Try to get in the habit of checking a couple of times a week, instead of multiple times per day. You’ll drive yourself mental checking them constantly. Trust us, ain’t nobody got time for that.
How to set up Google Analytics
1. Head to the Google Analytics website.
2. Click Log In, then Analytics
3. If you don’t already have a Google Analytics account, click Sign Up.
4. If you do have a Google Analytics account, click Log In. Enter the email address and password that you used to sign up for your account.
5. Set up your website or blog in your Google Analytics account. Click here for a guide on how to to do this.
6. Have a play with the different stats, and create your dashboard. This is the easiest place to have all of the most important stats on one convenient page.
7. Add your Google Analytics tracking code to your website. Here is how to do that.
Connect Google Analytics to your WordPress.org website
We’re going to use WordPress as an example here, since that’s the most commonly used blogging platform. The easiest, safest (in terms of not messing up your website or theme) way to connect Google Analytics to your WordPress website is by installing a plug-in.
What’s a plug-in? I’m a mindreader, guys.
A plug-in is something great, and should be one of the reasons you decide to start your blog with WordPress.org. Essentially a plug-in is software that’s added to your WordPress website to make things run smoother, be more secure or look awesome. They allow users to add features that don’t come with WordPress itself or the theme they are using.
One of the most popular Google Analytics plug-ins on WordPress is MonsterInsights. It’s the easiest way to connect your stats to your website, and see where your traffic is coming from. It’s totally free to download and use, and comes with a bunch of awesome basic features. There is a pro version with added features, for those users who would prefer more advanced features.
Here is a guide for connecting your Google Analytics to the free version of MosterInsights.
Step 6: Start writing Blog Posts
Once you’ve connected your Google Analytics account to your website, it’s time to start writing your blog posts! If you’re using WordPress.org, this is super simple. On the left hand side of your screen, hover over Posts then click Add New. This is where you can finally let your creative juices flow.
There aren’t really any right or wrong ways to write a blog post, but we have come up with a few tips and tricks to help you get off on the right foot! These are things we’ve learned along the way, and what I always wish I had implemented from the very beginning, as opposed to many months into our blogging journey.
Tip 1: The longer your posts, the better
we don’t mean you have to write a 5,000 word essay for every single blog post. But say you have a one month Japan itinerary you are halfway through writing, and you’re not sure whether you should turn it into two separate or keep it as one. It’s always best to choose the latter. Long posts rank well in Google, which is what your overall goal should be!
Tip 2: Optimise each post for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
When you’re writing your blog post, make sure each one has a keyword. This keyword is important, as it is what you’re hoping to rank for on Google.
So, for example, say you’re writing a blog post about the best things to do in Sydney on a budget. When people search for that on Google, you want your blog post to be on page one. This is what most bloggers aim for, because it means they are getting a ton of organic Google traffic.
Optimising each post for SEO means adding your keyword into the title, URL of your post, any images plus once or twice throughout the post itself. It’s a good idea to have a few keywords, and a great place to find keywords that you might rank well for, is with KeySearch. They have a free and a paid version, but we highly recommend the paid version. Try it out for free before you buy though, to make sure it’s what you’re looking for.
Digital Nomad Wannabe have some awesome tips for getting started with SEO. Check them out here!
Tip 3: Create ‘Pinnable’ graphics
I can hear you whispering to “yourself what does that mean?” from here. Basically, Pinterest is a travel blogger’s (well, any blogger’s really) best friend. For some bloggers, Pinterest is their main source of traffic. Of course, this shouldn’t be your ultimate goal. It’s always best to aim for Google to be your primary traffic source, but Pinterest is a fantastic start.
Head over to Pinterest’s website and create an account, if you haven’t already. Make sure your Pinterest account name matches your blog’s domain name. So, for instance, all of the social media accounts associated with our blog are @rhiannontravels. This is the easiest way for people to find you on social media, and looks a lot better when it comes to professional blogging.
Each blog post should have at least two pinnable graphics. To get an idea of what I mean by this, scroll to the bottom of this page. You’ll find two long, super bright and colourful images with some pictures and text on them. They are pins. If you hover over one of them, a Save button will appear. Clicking that save button takes you to a temporary window where you can then save that pin to one of the boards you will create on your own Pinterest account!
Pinterest is more of a search engine than social media platform. Basically, it’s a more visual form of Google, where people go to find out the answers to all sorts of questions. Pinterest is especially popular in the food, decor, travel and fashion categories.
Tip 4: Be informative
I don’t know about you guys, but when I’m trying to find all of the best places to see in a new country, I like to have all the information. I like to know where I’m going, how long it will take and even how much it might cost. It’s always best to assume everybody thinks this way, and include as much information as you can. Try to find out the accurate opening and closing times, and if you can’t, at least provide a link to where your readers can stay up-to-date.
Our blog posts and guides are all super informative, and we like to share as many useful tips as we can. The more memorable your blog posts are, the more likely people will keep coming back for more!
Step 7: Proof read your blog posts
This is a super important step, and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Generally, I tend to write an entire blog post in one day (or night). I very rarely post it that same day, though. I like to proof read each post as soon as I’ve written it, then come back the next day with a fresh mind. Most of the time, I find simple mistakes I’ve missed the day before, or sentences that don’t make sense or could be improved.
Once I’ve proof read the post twice, I feel happy to click publish! Some bloggers like to have another person proof read their posts, but it’s entirely a personal preference and how confident you feel in your writing at the start.
Whichever option you choose, be sure to look for things like: spelling mistakes, grammar errors, sentences that don’t make sense, sentences that can be changed or moved around, out-of-order information and anything else that you think could be improved.
Step 8: Include photos
One of the most important steps to creating a successful travel blog, is by including good quality photos – preferably, that you’ve taken yourself. The better quality the photo is, the more likely you will attract return readers. This is because most people are attracted to visually impressive photos, that stand out and make them whisper wow, that’s amazing to themselves.
Photo Editing Tip: Consider investing in an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. This will give you access to Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop – the two most popular and absolutely necessary programs, when it comes to running a successful travel blog.
If you don’t have many photos from somewhere you traveled to before starting your blog, that’s okay. There are plenty of free stock photo websites out there you can use. Some popular stock photo websites are Shutterstock, Unsplash and Pexels. Each stock website might have different rules when it comes to crediting photographers, so be sure to double check each photo before using it on your blog.
Step 9: Publish your post
Okay so you’ve finally written and editing your very first blog post. Congratulations! That’s awesome news. It’s now time to publish it!
Before you hit that scary Publish button, though, you’ll need to do a couple of quick checks. This is just to make sure everything is perfect before you share your blog post with the world. Here are some things you should double check, before hitting publish:
1. Make sure your SEO is on point
o tick this one off your list, make sure your keyword has been slotted into your title, the first paragraph, once or twice throughout the article and as the ALT text on each photo you use. The best way for beginners, to make sure your SEO is on the right track, is to download the WordPress.org plug-in called Yoast. This will allow you to change the SEO title, meta description (what you see on the Google search results page) and the URL or slug. It also gives you a good guide on whether you have used your keyword enough times throughout the post.
2. Add the post to relevant categories
On the right hand side of the page where you have been writing your post, you’ll see a Categories box. If you haven’t created any categories yet, you can do so here. If you’re writing a post about Japan, add a ‘Japan’ category. If you’re writing a post with a suggested itinerary for Australia, add an ‘Australia’ and ‘Suggested Itineraries’ category. I’m sure you get the point!
3. Preview your post
On the right hand side of your screen at the top, you should see a Preview button. Either right click then open link in a new tab, or if you’re a Mac user, hold down the Command button and click Preview. This will open up a preview of your blog post in a new tab, making it easier to switch between the two!
Have a read over your post and make any necessary changes. Check for spelling errors, because you’re more likely to notice them in the preview of your post, than on the editing page.
If everything looks good, go ahead and click Publish! This will make your blog post go live, and other people can start reading it.
Step 10: Promote your post
Once you’ve published your post, it’s time to start promoting it. How far you go when it comes to promoting your post, depends on what your travel blogging goals are. If you are hoping to start making money as soon as possible*, you’ll need to get into the habit of sharing multiple times, across many different platforms. It’s also a good idea to ask your family and friends to share your post, for that bit of extra exposure!
* it’s probably going to be a while before you start making money from your travel blog. Be patient, keep promoting and interacting with other travel bloggers. You’ll get there eventually, it just takes time!
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are the most common social media platforms, so start using them as soon as possible! Share your blog posts as status updates and tweets, or upload a photo from your travels with a link to the relevant blog post! There are so many ways to share your content with the world, it’s just a matter or figuring out what works for you!
So there you have it – our ultimate guide on how to create a travel blog from scratch. It’s important to note that every travel blog is different, but this is the best way to start on your travel blogging journey.
Are you about to start your very own travel blog? Or have you just started, and wish you knew some of these things beforehand? Tell us in the comments below! We would also be more than happy to answer any questions you might have, that we may have missed in this monster guide!
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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means, if you click on certain links within this post and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for continuing to support Rhiannon Travels, and keeping it a free travel guide and resource for everyone to use!