Header Nav (Top)

  • How To Start A Travel Blog And Make Money

    The Ultimate Resource Guide

How To Start A Travel Blog and Make Money: The Ultimate Resource Guide

How To Start a Travel Blog and Make MoneyWelcome to my Ultimate Travel Blogging Resource Guide.  This isn’t a guide to travel blogging, per se. Pretty much all of the information on how to start a travel blog and earn a living by travel blogging already exist on the Internet so, rather than write it all out again, I’ve simply collected links to all of the best available resources and listed them here. Only in the cases where I couldn’t find good information elsewhere did I write it myself.

In some cases, the resources are products that you pay for, such as web hosting. Wherever possible, I’ve included affiliate links to products, which means that if you click through and buy a product, I’ll receive a commission (though the price for you won’t change). I’ve marked those links with an asterisk (*).

I haven’t, however, included any products just to try and earn a commission. I genuinely recommend all of the resources below.

Below is a table of contents. You can open and close each section just by clicking on the title.

I hope you find this guide useful! If there’s anything you think I missed, please let me know in the comments!

Please note, this is a work in progress. Much of the guide is finished, but it’s taking me a long time to format for the website and add small details. So, I’m publishing it in sections as I finish them. Be sure to come back soon for more!

Introduction and General Resource

About This Resource Guide

When I decided to build this monolith of a travel blogging resource I had a single goal: to create the definitive one-stop directory that would provide any person who is willing to invest the time and energy to learn with every resource they need to earn a living as a travel blogger.

Well…that, and I wanted to make some money.

Lucky for me accomplishing the first goal enables me to accomplish the second. That may not seem to make much sense at first. After all, this is a free guide.

It does work though, and if you read the provided resources about content marketing, then you’ll understand exactly how that works and how to use the same type of strategy to earn money for yourself. But, since you haven’t gotten to read it yet, I’ll give you a quick run-down of how this guide will earn me money.

    1. Some of the products listed here use affiliate links (they’re marked with an asterisk *). So, if the people using this guide click on those links and buy products, I’ll be paid a small commission on the sale. When I invested the time in writing this guide I was banking on the fact that I’d be able to generate enough traffic and sales to make it worth my while.
    2. This guide shows people that I’m pretty a knowledgeable guy when it comes to travel blogging and online travel marketing. So, it will help convince bloggers to hire me to coach them and travel marketers to hire me as a consultant.
    3. This guide will attract bloggers and travel marketers. Although they may not all be ready to buy my services, many will be interested in signing up for my travel industry newsletter, in which I send regular tips, updates, and links when I publish articles like this one. By adding those people to my email list I’ll be able to continue to convince them that I should be their go to guy when they do need to hire somebody for help.

If you’d like to receive my industry newsletter, which will include up-to-date travel blogging, social media, and online marketing information and updates, you can, in fact, sign up right now.

[ois skin=”In-Post Industry Sign Up”]

I decided to create a resource guide rather than an entire book (which it nearly is anyways) because nearly all of the information necessary to learn how to travel blog professionally is already available on the Internet. You just need to know where to find it.

I learned much of what I know about blogging and social media online, so I thought it seemed silly to rewrite information that I could simply link to — especially when much of that information comes from experts in their respective fields.

I’ve personally used most of the resources that I recommend here, but I’ve also included some that I haven’t used based on the advice of other bloggers that I trust. I’ve only included resources in this list that I genuinely believe to be accurate and helpful.

The Internet is constantly evolving, and therefore so is blogging and content marketing. So, I will try to keep this resource guide as up-to-date as possible. That’s a big job, though, and I could use your help. So, if you notice anything that’s outdated, please let me know in the comments. Likewise, if you know of a good resource that’s missing, feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll consider adding it.

If there’s anything you would like to learn about that you can’t find here — or anywhere else — let me know and I’ll consider writing a blog post about it myself.

Happy learning!

Matt

Awesome General Resources

Blogging is big business these days, and there are a lot of excellent resources out there about travel blogging and blogging in general. Here are some of my go-to resources when I’m looking for information I know I can trust.


Travel Writing 2.0*travel-writing-2 By Tim Leffel

Written by renowned travel writer and publisher Tim Leffel, this book provides an intelligent and honest overview of the travel writing landscape in the digital age and the new skills and strategies required to earn a living — from both blogging and freelance writing — in this increasingly competitive field.

Full disclosure: Tim’s also one of my favorite people to hang out with at conferences and wears a fedora better than anyone else I’ve met.


31-days-better-blog31 Days to a Better Blog* By Darren Rowse

Problogger is one of the most useful blogs out there for aspiring professional bloggers. This ebook is an excellent roadmap for bloggers interested in improving their game. Just looking over the book again as I write this makes me want to give my blog the 31-day makeover. This advice never goes out of style.


working-on-the-road

Working on the Road* By Nora Dunn

This book from the popular Unconventional Guides series — although written by a popular travel blogger — isn’t strictly about blogging, nor is it about travel blogging. It’s a toolkit for people who are interested in leaving home to work from the road and covers topics ranging from dealing with all your stuff, to budgeting, to insurance, to starting an online business.

Full disclosure: Although we’ve never met in person, Nora and I have worked together before and she’s one of my best virtual buddies.


xpatmatt-mountainMy Industry Newsletter

I send out an occasional newsletter to travel bloggers and industry. The newsletter usually includes current events in travel and digital media, links to useful articles I’ve written (like this resource, for example), and jobs and freelance opportunities for travel bloggers that have come across my desk. You can sign up using this form.

[ois skin=”In-Post Industry Sign Up”]


probloggerProblogger

If you’ve read ProBlogger before, then you know why I listed it here. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re welcome.


copybloggerCopyBlogger

An excellent blog about blogging for money with an emphasis on strong copywriting. After The Elements of Style and On Writing Well (which I’ll discuss in the writing section), CopyBlogger is probably one of the best instructional resources about writing that I’ve ever seen.

I highly recommend signing up for their free 20-part Internet marketing course, partly because it’s a fantastic course, and partly because it’s the best example of a top-notch email sign-up incentive in action.


hubspotHubspot

Hubspot is probably off the radar of a lot of travel bloggers. The website is aimed more at professional marketers than bloggers, but since our strategies and goals are nearly identical, it’s also very useful for the serious professional blogger.

 

Bloggers Talk About Getting Started Travel Blogging

If you aren’t familiar with travel blogging, then this section will give you an idea of what you can expect. Here you will find the experiences of, and advice from, some of the more experienced and successful bloggers in the industry.

People often ask me about becoming a travel blogger. This is the advice I give them:

If you want to start a travel blog because you love participating in online communities and creating content about travel, then you’re in the right place.

If you want to start a travel blog because you want to earn money and travel the world for free, do something else.

A lot of people are attracted to travel blogging by the promise of earning money and and going on free trips.

Some travel bloggers do earn a living and travel for free, but travel blogging is extremely competitive and is a very hard way to earn a living. There are many easier ways to make money online, and free trips aren’t as much fun as you think.

Before you commit to travel blogging — which for most is a commitment to years of poorly- and unpaid work — consider learning how to start a different business online. Dropshipping Chinese-made toilet brushes may not be as glamorous as travel blogging, but it may well be a more secure and less time-consuming way to earn a living.

But, if you’re still determined to start a travel blog, here’s what some of my colleagues say about it.


first-week-bloggingProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging*

I’ve said it before, and you’ll hear me say it many more times. ProBlogger knows their stuff.  This book is an excellent resource for anyone looking to start a blog on the right foot, whether in travel or on any other topic.


How to Start a Travel Blog in Six Steps by Kate McCulley (aka Adventurous Kate)

Tips from Kate McCulley, one of the most popular travel bloggers on the web, on how to get your travel blog up and running.  A good read from a top travel blogger.

Full disclosure: Kate is my buddy and we drink beer beside swimming pools together whenever possible. Despite her poor taste in friends, her blogging advice is quite good.


How to Build a Travel Blog by Matt Kepnes (aka Nomadic Matt)

I have to be honest. I haven’t read this book. But, Matt is one of the most successful travel bloggers out there, so I know he knows what he’s talking about. And it comes with lifetime support, which, if you take advantage of it, is worth way more than the $10 that you’ll spend on the book.


How to Become a Professional Travel Blogger by Lawrence Norah

Lawrence Norah, the author of Finding the Universe, is one of the most active members of the travel blogging community and, also, one of the most business-minded travel bloggers that I know. This post is an excellent perspective on what it means to be a professional in the travel blogging industry, as opposed to being just another traveler with a blog. Lawrence also publishes a series of travel blogging tips from other professional travel bloggers.


How to Start a Travel Blog by Kristin Addis

Kristin Addis of Be My Travel Muse put together this concise and useful guide to the first steps of getting on your way travel blogging with a good roundup of the widgets and plugins that she likes to use.


How to Start a Successful Travel Blog by Norbert Figuera

Norbert of GloboTreks covers some excellent topics not discussed by others in this blog post, such as taking the time to choose your name and niche carefully, and how to ensure that your new blog is indexed by Google.


So You Want to be a Travel Blogger by Liz Carlson

Liz Carlson, aka Young Adventuress, speaks candidly about her road to professional blogging, the strategies that have (and haven’t) worked for her, and the philosophy that has helped keep her interested, passionate, and plugging away day after day.


How To Become a Successful Travel Blogger by Vikki Philpot

A well-grounded take on what it means to be a successful travel blogger (spoiler: it’s not the same for everyone) and steps that anyone — regardless of their goals — can take to achieve their own version of success.


How to Start a Travel Blog in 10 Simple Steps by Amanda Williams

In this overview, Amanda Williams gives you the broad strokes of what you need to do to start, build, and promote a travel blog. It’s sort of similar to this guide, but less technical and more condensed.


 

How to Find Success And Make Money As A Travel Blogger by Mariellen Ward

Mariellen compiled a fantastic list of resources here (at the bottom) along with good advice for becoming a professional blogger, including tips from many of the big names in the industry.


 

 

Building Your Blog and Other Technical Information

Domain Names and Blog Hosting

When you’re ready to start your blog, you’ll need to make a few basic decisions. First, you’ll need to decide whether to start a free blog on a website like WordPress or Blogspot or to pay for hosting and a domain name and start a self-hosted blog.

If you are at all serious about blogging, then you should bite the bullet and pay the $80/year it costs to buy a domain name and host your blog. If you’re not willing to invest that much, then you should stop reading right now and reconsider becoming a professional blogger. If you aren’t willing to invest that tiny amount of startup capital, you probably aren’t committed enough to succeed.

Starting a free blog will almost inevitably cause you headaches down the road because, if you decide later to blog to any sort of professional level, you will need a self-hosted blog (I won’t go into the reasons here) and will have to move your blog, which creates extra work, the potential for things to go wrong, and can cost more than you saved by not paying for hosting in the first place.

Do yourself a favor. Build a self-hosted blog using free WordPress blogging software from the start.

Domain Names

There are a gazillion domain registrars out there to choose from. A lot of bloggers I know prefer NameCheap* because it’s a bit cheaper than others. Personally, I don’t mind paying the extra few bucks per year to register my domain names with my budget web host (Hostgator*) for the convenience of keeping my web service bills in one place. If I were hosting with Bluehost*, as many bloggers do, I’d probably buy my domain names there.

Cheap Web Hosting

Hostgator* | $4/month and up

Opinions about this low-cost web host vary. Many people dislike Hostgator, but I’ve personally had a great experience with them and I host numerous websites with them. I’ve found their support to be great when I’ve used it, so I recommend them as a cheap host. Take that for what you will, it’s just one person’s experience. But, regardless of who you choose, for the love of God, don’t host with GoDaddy!


Bluehost* | $4/month and up

Like Hostgator, opinions about Bluehost vary. When bloggers debate the best budget hosting, they’re the two that seem to come up most frequently. They’re actually owned by the same parent company, and they’re both so cheap I don’t think anyone should expect too much from either of them. I don’t have any experience with Bluehost, I’ve included it because many people I know use and like it.


Premium Web Hosting

WP Pronto | $20/month and up

I found this host when I noticed that one prominent travel blogger was using it and said they loved it. I have no experience with them, but it looks quite good and affordable. If I wasn’t already set up with Synthesis (which I love, but is more expensive), I’d probably try it.


WP Engine* | $29/month and up

I’ve looked at and helped other bloggers to set up their websites with WP Engine. Hosting quality seems to be about on par with Synthesis, but I personally found WP Engine’s dashboard to be less user friendly, so I personally prefer Synthesis.


Synthesis | $47/month and up

I use Synthesis to host this (my most important) blog, and I think it’s fantastic. It was easy and painless to migrate my website. One small touch I loved was that they provided a file that you can upload to WP Total Cache to optimize your caching and CDN settings for their servers. I like it and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

 

Building Your Blog on WordPress

Once you have a domain name and hosting, it’s time to start building your blog. WordPress dominates the blogging world as the software of choice. It’s free, open-source, stable, and widely-used. Because it’s so widely used, there are tons of tools out there for customizing it and there’s a wealth of free resources online to help you learn how to use it. For those reasons, I strongly recommend you use it.

It’s so common, that many web hosts have one-button WordPress install options.

Go here for instructions on how to install WordPress on Hostgator.

Go here for instructions on how to install WordPress on Bluehost.

The resources below should contain the answers to basically any technical question about WordPress that you could possibly have, so get to know them well. You will use them often in the future.

All-Encompassing Resources

The WordPress Codex

This is probably the largest educational WordPress resource available online. It contains all the information you’ll need to get your blog up and running on the WordPress platform. Like WordPress software, the codex is open-source. It’s filled with tutorials on pretty much every wordpress issue you can imagine and forums where you can ask other users for help.


Lynda*

Lynda is known in many web circles as the resource for tutorials online. Not just WordPress tutorials (which they have 64 of), but also for web development, marketing, photography, video, and everything else an online entrepreneur could want to know.

Memberships start at $25/mo or $250/year, but if you’d like to take it for a test run first you can get a 10-day full-access free trial here.

Full disclosure: I haven’t used Lynda personally, but have heard it recommended so many times it would seem silly not to include it here.


WP101*

WP101 is a paywalled website with 45 video tutorials that will walk you through the process of building and maintaining your own WordPress website. It’s $19 for the first month, or $39 for one year, so it’s definitely an affordable resource.


WP Beginner

Similar to WP101, WP Beginner is a great series of tutorials on many aspects of using WordPress, though most of them are written rather than in video format, and it’s not that well organized, so it may take more sifting to find what you’re looking for.


WordPress Help and Share

This is a Facebook group with thousands of members where anyone can post their questions or problems for help from the community. It’s an excellent resource for learning and collaborating.

 

Making it Not Look Awful

WordPress is the software that runs your blog, but it can be customized to look any way you want. There are many attractive pre-made blog themes on the market. They’re easy to install and completely change the way your blog looks.

Go here to learn how to install a theme on your WordPress blog.

Themes aren’t all created equal. Some are free and some cost money. Most importantly, some offer support and some will continue to offer support in the future. This is very important because WordPress is constantly updating and changing. If your theme developer doesn’t update the theme consistently it will become a security risk and will eventually stop working properly, forcing you to switch to a new theme.

Changing your theme down the road — or being hacked — can be a huge hassle, so it’s important to buy a theme from a reputable developer who is likely to be around in years to come to keep the theme up-to-date and provide support. For those reasons, I recommend buying a premium theme from one of the following well-known, successful companies. An investment of $40 or $80 now will almost certainly save you a ton of headaches in the future.


StudioPress*

These are the same fellows who run Synthesis hosting, and I think their Genesis framework and child themes are awesome. Installing a framework and childtheme combination is basically as easy as installing a theme, costs about the same, and has a few technical advantages. I’ve built more than one blog on the Genesis framework and think it’s one of the best things going. I highly recommend building on the Genesis framework and using an approved child theme.


Woo Themes

Woo Themes is probably the other most reliable theme company. This blog actually runs on their Canvas theme, which is super customizable. I’ve also had great experiences with them and they’ve grown into one of the biggest theme companies around, so they’re likely to be around in the long run to provide support and updates.


Thesis*

I’ve never personally used Thesis, but it’s a long time favorite of professional bloggers and a reputable company, so I thought it deserved inclusion here.


The New Rainmaker

I absolutely love TNR. It’s like WordPress on steroids for online marketing. TNR is built by StudioPress and it includes most of the most common blog optimization and online marketing products out of the box. TNR includes the Genesis framework and a selection of childthemes, hosting by Synthesis (with an unlimited traffic limit, which is unheard of), as well as built-in email marketing, conversion tracking and paywall and e-commerce capabilities. It’s basically everything that marketers need in one package for one monthly payment. I’m tempted to switch over myself.


Mobile vs. Responsive Design

It’s widely accepted that to succeed you need to have a website that is mobile-friendly. That is to say, your website has to look just as good on a phone as it does on a tablet as it does on a computer.

There are two ways you can ensure that your website is mobile-friendly. You can have a mobile version of your website that viewers on mobile devices are automatically shown, or a responsive website that automatically resizes and rearranges elements for visitors on mobile devices.

Responsive design is generally considered the better solution, so you should be careful to choose a WordPress theme that is responsive.


Mobile-Friendly Test

Google looks at your website to determine if it’s mobile friendly and uses that information in mobile search rankings. This test will tell you how mobile-friendly Google thinks your website is.


WordPress Custom Designs and Theme Customizations

If you’d like to go one step beyond a nice-looking pre-made theme and have a completely custom WordPress theme built for you (or would like your theme highly customized), I can help.

I’ve helped several bloggers and brands build blogs. I feel that custom WordPress themes created designers are a bit risky because if a WordPress update breaks the theme, you will be forced to pay your designer again to fix it.

Without getting too technical about the reasons, the alternative is to have a childtheme built for a framework such as Genesis (by StudioPress) or Canvas (by WooThemes). This leaves more control in the hands of the blogger to make their own customizations — especially if they use Canvas — while minimizing the risk of future technical problems.

Because I feel this is the best approach, I’ve found some reasonably-priced Canvas experts that I work with to build blogs. For more information about building a standalone blog — or how to add a custom blog to your company’s website without creating a security risk — contact me.

If you just want to make a few small tweaks to your website, we can help with that too. Or you can also try learning how to tweak your blog’s CSS yourself.

I know there are lots of companies out there who do WordPress design, but I don’t know of any that specifically specialize in blogs for independent travel bloggers and travel brands. I’m not trying to monopolize this space just for my own service. If you know of any, please let me know so I can list them here.

 

Other Important Technical Tidbits

Pageload Speed

The amount of time it takes your website to load for users is important not only for good user experience, but because it’s one of the factors Google considers in search rankings. This tool enables you to test your pageload speed from different locations around the world and see what’s slowing it down.


Caching

If you run the above test and find that your website is going slowly, you will want to set up a caching plugin. Caching tells a reader’s browser to download and save certain parts of your website (like your logo for example) so that on future visits the reader won’t have to re-download those elements, thus helping your website to load faster.

I recommend the W3 Total Cache plugin, because that’s the one I use and it’s very (if not the most) popular. Here are some instructions on how to set it up.

Caching comes with one disclaimer: you should make sure you’re happy with your website design and aren’t planning to make changes before implementing it, because caching can complicate design changes (a little bit).


Content Distribution Networks (CDNs)

A CDN also helps to speed up your website. Your website is hosted on a server that’s physically located somewhere. Let’s say, for example, New York City. If a person loads your website in New York City, it may load very quickly. But if your website information has to travel from the server in New York all the way across the Atlantic and Europe to Istanbul, it will take significantly longer to load.

A CDN stores parts of your website on a servers around the world and when a computer requests your website it automatically serves your website from server closest to it.  Amazon Cloudfront (which I use) is one of the biggest CDNs out there. MaxCDN* is also very popular. The W3 Total Cache plugin has settings for both of these CDNs.

Here are some instructions for setting up Amazon Cloudfront with W3 Total Cache.

Here are some instructions for setting up MaxCDN with W3 Total Cache.


Google Analytics

Download this and install it right now. It’s free and you’re going to do it eventually no matter what, so you may as well sign up and get it over with.

Google Analytics is the industry standard software for tracking how many visitors visit your website, where they came from, and what they do on your site, all of which is very valuable information.

To install GA, all you have to do is sign up for a free account and then put a bit of tracking code in your website. Many WordPress have a place in the dashboard where you can cut-and-paste your GA information to install it. Try Googling “Install Google Analytics (Theme Name Here)” to find instructions.

The Yoast WordPress SEO plugin (which I recommend in the plugins section) also has an easy to use analytics installation system.

If for some reason those solutions don’t work, you can also use the Google Analytics plugin to install it.


Google Analytics Help

Google Analytics is a powerful tool for learning how readers are finding and interacting with your blog. Get to learn and love it, because it will be one of your best tools in the long run for learning to grow and monetize your audience. The above link takes you to the official Google Analytics help page, which has tons of free tutorials.


Google’s Free Analytics Academy

This is another official Google resource; a series of instructional videos followed by self administered tests. A great way to learn how Google Analytics can help you. I’ve been going through them all myself.


How To Use Google Analytics

This easy-to-follow flowchart of links to different Google Analytics tutorials in the order that a small business owner should consume them. It’s a great overview of the stages of learning Google Analytics and go-to resource to find tutorials for next step in your analytics education.


Google Webmaster Tools

This is another one you’re going to do eventually, so you may as well just do it now and get it over with even if you’re not sure what to do with it.

Google Webmaster Tools is a place that Google created for communicating with website owners about technical issues. Through your Google Webmaster Tools account you can officially ‘claim’ your website. You can also submit a sitemap to Google to help them index your website more quickly and easily.

Webmaster tools can also provide you with valuable information about your website, such as the search terms people are using to find it and broken links and missing pages. This is also the place where Google will send you a message if something is seriously wrong. Again, this is something you’re going to sign up for eventually anyways, so you may as well do it now.


Bing Webmaster Tools

Just like Google Webmaster Tools, but for Bing. Again, you may as well just do it and get it over with.

 

Choosing the Right Plugins

There are two rules to using plugins with WordPress:

  1. Always as few plugins as possible. Using too many plugins can create technical problems for your blog and will almost certainly make it run slowly.
  2. Always keep your plugins up to date and delete any plugins that you aren’t using. Deactivated and out-of-date plugins can leave your blog vulnerable to hackers.

As with WordPress themes, plugins come and go and have varying levels of support. It’s advisable to try and use plugins that have good support and are likely to be around for a long time. Fortunately, many free plugins fit this criteria, though I often feel that it’s worth it to pay for premium features and support.

With that in mind, I’ve listed all of the plugins that I couldn’t live without below. You may also want to take a look through this enormous list of useful plugins.


Askismet (comment spam filter) | Free

This plugin comes pre-installed on WordPress. It automatically blocks a very large proportion of the spammers who spam blog comments for links. Keep it. Use it.


Flare Social Sharing Buttons | $89/year

This isn’t a plugin, per se, but an app that performs a function that a plugin is normally used for. It’s a premium app and costs $89/year, but it’s an excellent out-of-the-box sharing solution. There are lots of similar free alternatives, but they tend to come and go and occasionally break. I’m paying the $89/year for Flare for a few reasons

1) It’s a better than the free alternatives.

2) I want to know the team that supports it is earning money and will continue to support and improve it so that I don’t have to go through the trouble of changing.

3) Filament (the company that makes Flare) is working on a free social sharing analytics dashboard. It’s only in beta now, but so far it looks really good.

Free Alternatives

If you’d rather go with a free plugin, check out Digg Digg, AddThis, or SumoMe, which are all pretty awesome.


OptinMonster (Email Sign-Up Forms)* | $49 – $499/Lifetime

There are several free and premium popover plugins out there. I use OptinMonster. To be totally honest, it’s been so long since I bought it that I don’t remember what convinced me to buy it over others. I think it may have been a recommendation. Either way, so far, it has been great.

OptinMonster comes with a number of very nice premade templates for popovers, slide-ins, sidebar forms, and embedded forms. It’s quite customizable, enables you to choose very specifically which visitors are shown popovers and on which pages they are shown, allows for easy A/B testing, and integrates easily with most newsletter applications such as Aweber, Constant Contact, and Mailchimp.

Free Alternatives

If you’re not ready to spring for a premium optin plugin, then you may want to look into WordPress PopUp for popover boxes that can be designed using the WP visual editor or Dreamgrow Scroll-Triggered Box for a slide-in.


OptinSkin (Email Sign-Up Forms)*  | $67 – $97/Lifetime

OptinSkin is another premium email sign up form that I use. It’s similar to OptinMonster in that it has nice templates, integrates with most newsletter apps, allows A/B testing, and is very customizable. The difference between the two is that OM has popover and slide-in options and OS doesn’t, while OS allows users to create forms to embed in blog posts (like the ones I used in earlier sections of this guide) and OM doesn’t.

So, if you’re big on email sign-ups (like I obviously am), you may want to consider using both.


Outbrain (for suggested reading at the bottom of blog posts) | Free

Several recommended reading plugins have come and gone over the years. Outbrain, although not the most customizable plugin, promises to stick around because it actually earns money through paid traffic sharing, which you can enable on your own site for an an extra revenue stream.


WordPress SEO by Yoast (for SEO optimizing blog posts)  | Free

A few good SEO plugins have come and gone over the years, but none have been as easy-to-use and comprehensive as Yoast, which automatically gives each of your blog posts an SEO rating and tells you how you can improve it. It also also enables you to easily install Google Analytics, create an XML sitemap, set up redirects, and do other advanced web trickery that would otherwise require either coding skills or a number of other specialized plugins.


W3 Total Cache (for speeding up your pageload time) | Free

The fastest and easiest way to speed up your blogs load speed is to install W3 Total Cache, which helps web browsers to store certain items for faster loading.

I highly recommend that you take a minute to sign up for a CDN like Amazon Cloudfront or MaxCDN* and connect it to WP Total Cache, as that will ensure your blog loads as quickly as possible around the world and costs next to nothing.


CoSchedule (editorial calendar and social scheduling)* | $10/mo

CoSchedule is the easiest-to-use plugin for sharing blog posts across multiple social networks that I’ve found. It has a streamlined interface below your blog post so you can schedule sharing to all of your social networks from right inside WordPress after you’ve finished the post. You can also use it as an editorial calendar to schedule blog posts, and to schedule social posts unrelated to your blog.

Free Alternatives

There is no other plugin I’m aware of that has the same functionality as CoSchedule. Many people use social applications to schedule updates, which I’ve listed in the social media section of the guide. If you’d like a free plugin to help you manage your blog post scheduling on WordPress, then you may want to take a look at the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin.

 

Finding Technical Help

Bloggers are usually pretty independent people — do-it-yourself types who like to figure stuff out on their own. I know I am. Because of that, over the years I ended up learning more about Wordpess than I’d care to admit. The learning process, however, was time-consuming, frustrating, often included Tarantino-esque strings of profanities growled through clenched teeth at my computer.

Later I learned most of these jobs could have been outsourced quickly and easily for the price of a good lunch, which is what I do now. As result I’m a lot more fun to be around, though I’m not nearly as talented at insulting my electronics as I once was.

WordPress is overwhelmingly popular, and the the wake of its spread across the internet, numerous reputable online support businesses have sprung up. Here are several good options I’ve found, as well as a couple of free advice forums and websites where you can find freelancers to help you out.


Fantasktic*

Fantastktic offers numerous WordPress help services, but they specialize in WordPress migrations. They’re usually $99 and they’ve always done an fast, professional job when I’ve used them. Once, I was helping a client who ran into a fairly serious issue with her migration, but the crew at Fantasktic worked on it for several days until it was fixed.

If you have a WordPress problem, you can also submit it to them and they will reply with a timeline and price to fix it. I’ve never tried that, but based on my experience I definitely trust their pricing and service.


WP Maintainer*

WP Maintainer is a website maintenance service that provides backups, takes care of updates, and provides security for your blog for $99/month.


WP Site Care

WP Site Care is another WordPress maintenance service that offers three levels of maintenance and support ranging from $29 – $239/month. Those services all include backups, updates, and support. I’ve never tried them before, but their offer sounds pretty reasonable.


WP Fix It*

This is a service we’ve all needed at one time or another. Something on my blog broke and. I need it fixed now. WP Fix It offers to fix any single WP issue for $39. If a tech can’t fix your problem after working on it for 4 hours, you get  your money back. Sounds decent, right?

One thing that I noticed is that WPFI is basically a marketing company. They split the $39 with the developer who fixes your problem. Since the developer is being paid per job, they’re likely to look for the fastest fix, which is not always the best one. But, if I’m in a bind and choosing between this, ODesk, or Fiverr, I’d probably try WPFI.


ODesk

ODesk is probably the most popular marketplaces around for finding tech freelancers. There are tons of people on it who you can search for by skill and price, and most have plenty of reviews to read. ODesk also includes a system for monitoring the work of the person you hire through automated screenshots of their work taken at regular intervals (so you can see that they’ve been working and not fooling around on Facebook) and for safe payment.


WordPress Services on Fiverr

Can I say that paying somebody $5 is a good deal for WordPress services? Not really. You often get what you pay for. But, sometimes you can get simple jobs done well and cheaply on Fiverr, so it’s worth being aware of. I actually just bought a logo in Fiverr that cost $26 (including some add-ons). I think it was a great deal. Of course, on the flip side, before that I wasted 6 weeks dealing with a designer that turned out to be a dud. Roll the dice at your own peril.

 

Creating Content & Building Traffic

Building blog traffic is probably one of the most mysterious and intimidating aspects of the industry for new bloggers. Massive amounts of effort often seem to result in tiny gains, which can be incredibly disheartening.

Fortunately, many very smart people have faced these challenges before and documented their strategies, successes, and failures. Below I’ve listed a few of the resources that I’ve found the most useful over the years.

One rule of thumb that I offer everyone (and that rarely see expressed clearly in articles) is differentiating between different two very important types of traffic, so I’d like to take a moment to explain my feelings about this.

It’s important to create a distinction between what I like to call ‘discovery traffic’ and ‘loyalty traffic’.

To put it bluntly, a person who visits your website once and never returns is a useless visitor. That visit may help you to build impressive traffic numbers, but they’ll never actually help you accomplish any meaningful goal (such as selling product for yourself or your sponsors) except in a few very specific situations.

So, your first priority should be to encourage every visitor to take an action on your site: sign up for your newsletter, like you on Facebook, or follow you on Twitter. This action will turn a one-time visitor into a potential repeat visitor, or loyal reader, both of which are far more attractive to advertisers and more likely to buy your products than a one-time drop-in visitor.

So, before you get all jazzed up about building traffic, I highly recommend that you spend your time finding ways to convert that traffic into subscribers (the next section, Your Email Newsletter is WAY More Important Than You Think, has some great advice). Otherwise, you won’t be capitalizing properly on the traffic that you do build.

With that in mind, below are some excellent resources that will show you lots of ways to build traffic to your blog.


The Hacker’s Guide to User Acquisition

A friend showed me the chapter from this book about gaining followers on Instagram. I was impressed. This guide focuses on clever uses of technology to quickly build a following that’s  interested in your blog topic.

The one drawback to this book is that it does require a pretty high degree of technical ability. It is for ‘hackers’. Even so, it’s extremely interesting. It’s a work in progress and at the time of writing only had three chapters. I haven’t had time to read the whole thing, but what I did read was good enough to make me want to share it. If you have time to read it, I’d love to hear what you think.


How to Build an Audience that Builds Your Business

Full disclaimer: I’m a huge Copyblogger fan. You’ll hear me recommend both their free and paid products several times in this guide because their advice is some of the best around, their products are built specifically for the needs of people like you and I, and — the best part of all — the information they’re giving away is a perfect demonstration of how to use content to build an audience that will buy your product. I’m living proof that it works. Not only do I buy their products, I love the way they were sold them to me.


Case Study: How Trekity.com Scored 8,370 Pageviews Its First Week

This is a great post about how Darcie Connell launched her newsletter for female travelers. I especially like the fact that it doesn’t promise the moon, but shows how with some hard work and a small budget, an independent publisher can get their website off to a fast start.


101 “Magnifiers” For Exploding Your Travel Site’s Traffic

The title of this one is a bit clickbaitish. This list isn’t going to blow your mind with new and amazing strategies — especially if you’ve been travel blogging for a while. But, lists like this are always good to review once in a while to remind us of the strategies we haven’t been using. It’s never a bad idea to remind ourselves to reevaluate old strategies and test out new things.


How to Build a High-Traffic Blog Without Killing Yourself

Am I the only blogger in the world that thinks Tim Ferriss is a douchebag? He wrote a book promising to teach people to run a business in 4-hours a week, all the while probably working about 80 himself, and his blog header photo leads me to believe he thinks he’s some sort of field hockey ninja.

In true Tim Ferriss style, he makes an overblown claim about the contents of the article I’ve linked to above. Although this talk won’t teach you how to make blogging easy (it’s not, and you should get used to that now) the contents do include good insight into how Tim runs one of the best-known blogs on the internet.


Skyscraper Content

This technique was introduced to me a few years ago and I was blown away. It’s a brilliant idea. In fact, the guide you’re reading right now is a perfect example of skyscraper content. It was this strategy that I used to come up with this idea.

Basically, you look for very successful pieces of content that already exist, and then take that concept and build a bigger and better piece of content and promote it in all the places where the first piece of content was successful. Definitely a useful technique for SEO and building stellar pillar content.


The 80-20 Rule

This rule for content creation probably came from the enormously influential Pareto Principal and has been written about in the context of blogging, but it’s simple enough to summarize here. Many bloggers consider this a best practice for content production.

Great content is useless if nobody sees it. Spend 20% of your time producing content, and 80% promoting it. Don’t take that as an excuse to spam. Promotions should be a genuine attempt to show content to people who are genuinely interested in the topic. If you’ve made something great, people will appreciate that you took the time to show it to them.


Content Idea Generator

This thing is awesome. I don’t know if it will help you generate amazing blogging ideas, but if you’re stuck it’s worth a try. At the very least, it will make you smile.


Blog Idea Generator

Similar to the tool above, this tool created by Hubspot is also great for brainstorming title ideas for interesting content. The title’s aren’t quite as amusing, but are pretty useful.


Content Strategy Generator Tool

This tool is much more in-depth than the others above. It’s an exceptional tool for taking a topic you’re considering writing and quickly finding out what’s been written about it recently, finding new information to accompany your post, and getting a general feel for what the online conversation about that topic is focussing on right now.


 

Your Email Newsletter is WAY More Important Than You Think

Ask most professional bloggers and online marketers what their most important valuable method of communication with their audience is, and they will all say the same thing: email. Your email list is more valuable than followers on any social media platform, and many consider it even more important than your blog.

Don’t take my word for it. Everyone is saying it. You can read articles on the subject here and here. Glen, the marketing phenom behind Viperchill, has even argued for replacing your blog with email.

These are the two main reasons why:

  1. You own it and it can never be taken away from you. Many brands invested heavily in gaining Likes for their Facebook page, before Facebook reduced their reach to 1-2% and told them they’d have to pay for more. That can happen with any social network, but it can’t happen with email.
  2. It’s the most personal form of online communication. You can get anyone to read a blog post, and people are generally pretty willing to like your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter, but most are very careful about who they give their email address to. Once you have it, it’s an indication that they’re really willing to listen to you.

If you keep this in mind while looking at popular blogs, you’ll see they prioritize the email sign up above all else, and so should you. So, the first thing you should do, before you even consider building traffic, is put an email sign up in the most prominent available position on every page and either install a popover or slide-in sign up to build your list as quickly as possible.

Below are some more in-depth methods for building and leveraging your email list.

The Most Popular Newsletter Services

There’s no shortage bulk mailing services out there. In my experience, though, there are a few that are commonly trusted and used by most serious bloggers and marketers. They include:

Mailchimp*

If you’re not sure which to sign up for, you’ll probably end up choosing Mailchimp like I did. This is the only reputable service I know of that has a free option (you can use the service for free for up to 2000 email subscribers). That, combined with a super user-friendly interface makes MailChimp a very popular choice for beginners. I’ve always been happy with it.

Aweber* and Constant Contact*

These two services are also widely used. They’re more expensive than MailChimp, but are also said to offer some very advanced segmenting options that MailChimp does not, and some people I know swear that those options make them worth it. I can’t say for sure myself, because I’ve never tried them out or had a need for advanced segmenting in my email efforts.


How to Build Your Email List

The CopyBlogger Guide to Email Marketing

Yup, here I go again with these CopyBlogger guys. But what am I supposed to do? They literally wrote the book on email marketing and are giving it away for free. Well, actually in exchange for your email address, which is lesson #1. This course will give you a great overview of email marketing best practices.


How to Build a Massive Email List

This post from the uber-popular Buffer Blog is a wonderful introduction to the basics of convincing people to sign up for your email list.


How We Doubled Our Email Sign-Ups in 30 Days

This follow-up post from the Buffer Blog explains in exactly how the company was able to double their email subscribers in a month. It’s wonderfully detailed and illuminating. Posts like this are why so many super blogging geeks like myself love the Buffer Blog.


Email Lists: Make them a Priority in 2015 with These Tips

Up-to-date tips for growing your list and reaching your audience through email that builds on the information linked to above by highlighting the way certain commonly-used techniques are being affected by trends in 2015.


How to Separate Clickable from Forgettable Links

When you’re ready to get a little more advanced in your email campaigns, you’re going to want to start tracking which links people click on, and how they behave when they arrive on your website. There are various methods for tracking clicks like this. This step-by-step tutorial from CrazyEgg will show you how to set one up using a few free tools.


 

Getting Press

There are few strategies for building a readership better than getting covered in the press. Of course guest posting is good, but traditional media can’t be beat. Media mentions drive interested traffic, help build your followers, improve your SEO better than almost any other single action could, and add a degree of legitimacy and authority to your blog that can’t be achieved any other way.

Competition to get into the press, however, is fierce. Most of the PR industry is dedicated to helping their clients do just that. So, a blogger with few resources and limited time has to carefully choose where to focus their efforts.

There are, however, a few good strategies travel bloggers can use to build up an arsenal of press mentions to build traffic and authority.


92 Ways to Get (and Maximize) Press Coverage

This great (and very long) article from SEO Moz isn’t going to tell you, “If you want press go do x, y, and z, and you’ll get it.” This is better looked at as a comprehensive overview of how PR generally works and the various strategies companies use. If you don’t know much about PR, this is an excellent introduction.


How to Get Press Coverage: A 5 Step Process That Really Works

This is a good actionable piece by Adam from Travel Blogger Academy. It’s nice and brief and shows how a travel blogger can use traditional PR techniques to get press.


HARO

HARO is an acronym for Help A Reporter Out. It’s a widely-used service where reporters post requests for information and sources for articles they’re working on. You can sign up for alerts for specific topics and then respond to queries where you think you can contribute. This is a great efficient way to land interviews, quotes, and hopefully links back to your blog.


Media Kitty

Media Kitty is a service similar to HARO, but with a wider scope. It’s not just a good place to find reporters looking for sources. It’s also a place where writers can pitch stories, where press trip opportunities are publicized, and where editors solicit writers for stories they need.


Hubspot’s Complete Guide to Newsjacking

This strategy has worked out very well for me twice. Each time it resulted in a huge burst of traffic and several media links. Newsjacking, to summarize very briefly, is writing about a breaking news story with some kind of unique spin that gets you a lot of attention, most notably in the form of media quotes and links.

My first success with this was when I happened to read the first appearance of a story about a man who photographed a cheetah mauling his wife that later went viral. Since I was the second person to write about it (after the South African paper that first ran the story), subsequent media outlets that picked up the story (like USA Today) linked back to my story as reference.

The second time came after I’d appeared on House Hunters International. Many months later a prominent magazine ‘broke’ the story that HHI is staged. So, I wrote a quick first-hand account of my experience, which was then picked up by numerous media outlets that hopped on the HHI bandwagon.

The above link is a great overview of how newsjacking can be used in many forms (lots more than I’ve mentioned here). For some quick, actionable advice, check out this article: 4 Simple Newsjacking Formulas.


#NGTRadar

This is a great easy way to get mentioned by National Geographic Travel. Their Intelligent Travel blog created the #NGTRadar hashtag as way for people to submit stories for consideration for their bi-monthly roundup of the best stories from around the web. All you have to do is follow @NatGeoTravel on Twitter, tweet your best stories with teh #NGTRadar hashtag, and then check back every other Wednesday to see if you were included in the Travel Lately roundup.


 

Content for Robots (aka SEO)

Writing

How to Write More Gooder

Purty Pictures

How To Take Them

How To Fancy Them Up On The Computer

Places To Store Them Online

Where To Find Them Online for Free

Social Media (aka The Black Hole of Productivity)

Tools, Apps, and Other Knick-Knacks

General Resources

Facebook: A Pay-to-Play Marketing Tool

Twitter: The Virtual Water Cooler

Pinterest: A Marketing Miracle

Instagram: Kittens…everywhere!

YouTube: The Internet’s 2nd Biggest Search Engine

Google+: Tumbleweeds and Internet Marketers

SnapChat: What Are Those Crazy Kids Up To Now?

Making Money

A Word to the Wise: There Are Easier Ways to Make Money

General Blog Monetization Information

Writing A Business Plan (Trust Me, It Will Help)

 

Organizations That Connect Bloggers With Sponsors

There are a lot of companies out there that are dedicated to helping companies connect with bloggers for campaigns. These companies usually make money from the companies reaching out to the bloggers, and allow bloggers to sign up for free.

Below is a complete list of every company currently connecting companies with bloggers that I’ve heard of.

Blogdash

Blogger Bridge

Bloggers Required

BlogMeetsBrand

Brandbacker

*Cooperatize

Izea

Link Vehicle

Mattr

*Professional Travel Bloggers Association

Sidebuy

Socialpubli

TapInfluence

The Blogger Programme

The Midgame

Tomoson


 

 

Travel Writing

Travel Photography

Sponsorships

Affiliate Links

Selling Your Services

Selling a Product

Free and Cheap Travel

Press Trips (Ain’t All They’re Cracked Up to Be)

Productivity

How To Work Faster So You Can Watch More Kitten Videos

Continuing to Grow

Even more resources

 

7 Responses to How To Start A Travel Blog and Make Money: The Ultimate Resource Guide

  1. Cathy Fernando June 6, 2016 at 8:24 am #

    I have always wanted to start a travel blog, I guess I will start with a domain and hosting 🙂

  2. Catia June 13, 2016 at 5:19 am #

    Thanks for this! Lot’s of great tips for us lil guys starting out.

  3. Paulin Curlay December 15, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

    Thank you so much! I am brand new to blogging and I would love to be able to start bringing a substantial income to my family. You are an incredible inspiration! I actually feel as though it might be possible for me now.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. If I'm Elected President - April 3, 2015

    […] an advanced guide for professional travel bloggers, which is being incrementally released in sections this […]

  2. How you can discover success and become profitable as a journey blogger | Posts - April 12, 2015

    […] Xpat Matt: How to start a travel blog and make money […]

  3. How to find success and make money as a travel blogger - April 13, 2015

    […] Xpat Matt: How to start a travel blog and make money […]

  4. Workers of the World Weekly: January 15, 2016 - January 15, 2016

    […] How To Start A Travel Blog and Make Money: The Ultimate Resource Guide Though still a work in progress, Matt Gibson collects links to all of the best available resources and lists them here. […]

Leave a Reply