Create Your Own Blog
How to start your own travel blog
Pick a name and secure it everywhere
Sign up for hosting
Choose and install a theme
Get a logo
Create your general pages
Install these plugins
Sign up for Google Analyics
Sign up for Google Webmaster Tools
Get an email address for your blog
Choose an email service and start a list
Develop a content and promotion strategy for your blog and social media
Learn from others
Start making money
1. What will you write about? Be specific!
This might seem like a stupid question (“Travel, duh!”) but it isn’t. The answer to this question will determine your blog’s name, what it will look like and how you will run it. So just think for a moment.
How often do you travel? Where do you plan on traveling to in the following year? Is there something about travel that really excites you (beaches!) or something that really bores you (museums?)? Is there something about the way you travel that makes you unique or that stands out? Maybe you always travel solo, maybe you eat vegan, maybe you eat cupcakes everywhere you go.
Asking yourself questions like this and answering them will show you what your travel blog should be about. It will show you your niche. And believe me, you need one.
There are about 1,264,895 travel blogs out there. Okay, that number is completely random and totally made up, but you get the point. You will not stand out by writing about travel. You’ll need to go more specific than that. I knew this, but it took me a long time to stop fighting the obvious: that I should create detailed travel itineraries as travel planning is where my expertise lies.
You know you’ve found your thing when you can summarize what your travel blog is about in one sentence. 3monkeytravels? It’s the travel blog for the family and culturally curious who love to travel independently.
Some examples of top travel blogs who’ve done a great job at establishing themselves as niche experts are:
Adventurous Kate: solo female travel
Chasing the Donkey: travel within Croatia
Nomadic Matt: budget travel
The Planet D: adventure travel for couples
2. Why do you want to start your own blog?
Granted, your reasons for blogging might change over time. It can start as a hobby and turn into a business. It can start as a side business and turn into your main source of income. It can start as your full-time occupancy and change into something you do on the side because of all kinds of reasons.
Still, it’s good to know when you’re starting a blog, why you’re starting a blog, as this will affect how you go about things and how much time you’ll spend on your travel blog. If you start a blog purely as a way to keep friends and family informed while you’re traveling or as a creative output, then there really are no “must-do’s”. But if you plan on growing your blog into a business in one way or another, there are. Below I’ve listed how to create a blog in several steps… and how to keep it running once you’re all set up.
1. Pick a name and secure it everywhere
You’ve already thought long and hard about what your travel blog will be about, so you’ve probably come up with some names for it as well. Now, before you buy the domain name you have in mind, it’s important to head over to social media first. And by social media I mean every big social media channel:
You see, you don’t want to make the same mistake as I did. I decided on “ThreeMonkeystravel” as the name for my own blog, but “ThreeMonkeystravel” as an account name wasn’t available anymore for all of those social media channels and for some it was also too long, so I’m stuck with different handles now, which might make it confusing for people who want to follow me.
My Facebook page is: facebook.com/3monkeytravels
My Twitter is: twitter.com/OneMonkeyMe
My YouTube is: youtube.com/user/3monkeytravels
My Instagram is: instagram.com/3monkeytravels/
My Google+ page is: plus.google.com/+OneMonkey Me/posts – but I’m only really active on my personal profile there
My StumbleUpon is: stumbleupon.com/3monkeytravels
My Pinterest is: pinterest.com/3monkeytravels/
See what I mean? So when you’ve decided on a blog name, first go to all of these social media channels and check whether that name is still available on all of them. If it isn’t and you’re really set on the name, you can try a logical variation on it, but then do use that variation for all of your social media and not just for a few channels.
If you’ve decided on a name and it’s available on all social media channels, then you still need to check if it’s also still available as a domain name. With so many websites out there, chances are you might have to try out different options.
Every domain name registrar has a tool that lets you check if the domain name you want is still available. When I first started blogging, I bought my domain name from Ipage, but I now have it registered with my host Wix and Siteground.
A few tips:
I know that there are all kinds of cool domain extensions nowadays, like .travel, but .com is still the standard so make sure you get that one (as well).
Do not buy a domain name that looks a lot like an existing one and definitely do not buy the .net version of an existing .com website.
Try to avoid hyphens.
Avoid overused words. Yes, “wanderings” is overused by travel blogs today, so I failed miserably there. But hey, cut me some slack, I had no idea what I was doing when I bought my domain name : ) You can avoid the mistake I made!
Avoid anything with an expiration date. That means no “twenty-something” or “travelbefore30” stuff.
Alright, now that we’ve gotten the preaching out of the way, let’s get to work! Buy your domain name and sign up for an account on all the social media channels I mentioned. Even if you don’t plan on using them all.
2. Sign up for hosting
There are a ton of sites that let you create a blog for free. However, in many cases that means that you won’t fully own your blog and that your domain name will have something like “tumblr” attached to it, which just isn’t cool or professional. So what you want is a self-hosted blog. I’ll explain a bit more about what that means in the next step. For now, all you need to know is that to host a self-hosted blog you need – indeed – hosting.
A hosting company hosts your blog on their servers for a monthly fee (which you can pay annually or for two or three years at a time as well, if that’s what you prefer).
When I started blogging I hosted my site with Ipage, but as I wasn’t entirely pleased with the customer support there, I later switched to Siteground. SiteGround worked fine until my site became a bit too big for it to handle and so I recently moved 3monkeytravels over to Wix, where I find support to be better as well.
You will see that most hosting companies offer a free domain name for a year if you host your site with them so if you want to save a bit of money and don’t have a reason to buy your domain name from a separate company, you can always just get it at the same time that you purchase your blog hosting.
If you decide to go with SiteGround, like me, just surf to their homepage and click “sign up”. This will show you the different plans they offer. I was on the GoGeek plan, but if you’re just starting out, the StartUp plan will do. You can always upgrade later.
Ones you’ve chosen your plan, SiteGround will give you the option to either enter the domain you’ve purchased before or to register a domain name through them for free.
After that, it will give you a chance to review your order and purchase your hosting.
3. Install WordPress
Like I said, there are a lot of platforms out there on which you can start a blog. A lot of them are free as well. While you can go ahead and compare them all if you like, a highly recommend you choose self-hosted WordPress.
Self-hosted vs not self-hosted
What are the differences between having a self-hosted and a not self-hosted website?
1. Ownership of your domain name
With a self-hosted blog, you own your domain name. This travel blog is self-hosted and has "3monkeytravels.com” as the domain name, whereas a not self-hosted version would be “3monkeytravels.wordpress.com”, for example. A well-known platform for not self-hosted blogs is Tumblr.
When you create a blog on a platform that doesn’t allow self-hosting, you’re dependent on that platform’s performance and “mood swings”. If it suddenly decides your travel blog doesn’t comply with its T&C anymore, it can take you offline without an explanation. With a self-hosted blog, you are the sole owner of your data and you decide what happens to it. You’ll still need a server to host your blog on, but we covered that in the previous step.
You usually cannot sell advertising on a blog that’s not self-hosted. Even if you don’t want to sell advertising on your travel blog from the start, don’t deny yourself that opportunity for later.
4. Plugins and custom themes
When you use a platform like Tumblr, the way your travel blog looks will depend on the templates and functionalities available on that platform. With a self-hosted blog, you can install customized themes or plugins and go as crazy as your coding skills or design budget allow for.
Wordpress is the standard blogging platform. There are a few companies trying to compete with it, like Squarespace, but as far as I know, WordPress is still king. I also like Wix. Even the BBC and Beyoncé use WordPress!
There are two versions of WordPress: WordPress.com, which is the one that’s not self-hosted and that you thus won’t use, and WordPress.org, which is the one you need.
If you’re still hesitant about WordPress, you might want to check out this WordPress vs Blogger comparison on First Site Guide. They have videos comparing WordPress with other systems as well.
Now that you have your domain name and hosting, you can finally install WordPress. SiteGround offers you the option to automatically install WordPress. They have a tutorial on it here. If you rather do it yourself, you can find a tutorial for installing WordPress manually here.
4. Choose and install a theme
You won’t be able to really create your own blog until you’ve installed a theme. Themes are the base for the layout of your blog. They’re like design templates. You can use them as they are or adapt them (change colors etc.) to make your travel blog look the way you want.
There are tons of free WordPress themes out there and a lot of them will work just fine when you first start out. You can search for them directly from your WordPress dashboard, in the back-end of your travel blog.
5. Design your logo or hire someone to do it for you
If you’re serious about your travel blog, you’ll need a logo. You won’t only use this in the header (the top part) of your blog, but also on future business cards, on all your social media channels and as a favicon (the little icon you see on the left in the tab when you have your site open in an internet browser).
If you’ve got design skills, great! If not, you can still start by creating something simple in a free tool like Canva and hire a designer to create a new version of your logo when you’re a bit further down the game and certain of what you’re looking for.
6. Create your main pages
While you might not be ready yet to create blog posts, there are a few pages every travel blog should have. I recommend creating these as soon as you have your site up and theme installed, as having a few pages online will help you get the look of your blog just the way you like it.
For example, you’ll have to set font colors and size for your posts and pages and there’s no way to know what those will look like unless you have, indeed, some pages online. In terms of posts, you can always create a test post or a “Welcome to my blog” post and update that later.
Some pages your blog should definitely have:
an About page, telling readers who you are and, more importantly, what your blog is about
a Contact page, with a form they can use to get in touch with you and possibly also your email address
You’ll also have to decide whether you want your homepage to be your blog page or not. On 3monkeytravels, my homepage is static (which means what’s on there is on there until I decide to change it), whereas my blog page is updated automatically each time I publish a new post.
7. Install some plugins
Congratulations! You wanted to know how to create a blog; with your domain name secured, hosting set up and WordPress with theme installed and pages created, you now have a running travel blog. It can use some extra functionalities, though, and that’s where plugins come in.
Plugins are a kind of extensions or third-party apps that allow you to add a specific functionality to your WordPress travel blog. You can download them in the “plugins” section of your WordPress dashboard.
Most plugins are free, but there are also some premium plugins for which you need to pay. Some of the basic, free plugins that I use, are:
Akismet: protects your blog against spam comments.
BackWPup: creates database backups of your travel blog. You can ask it manually to run a backup or set it to backup every 24 hours, 48 hours etc.
Contact Form 7: a contact form that’s a bit more flexible than the standard WordPress one.
Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights: connects your blog to Google Analytics so you can track who visits your site when. More about this a bit further below
YOAST: the best Search Engine Optimization plugin out there. Helps you to optimize your posts for Google search.
Q2W3 Fixed Widget: it’s what makes the bottom widget in my sidebar stick when you scroll down.
A lot of bloggers also use a caching plugin which “saves” some elements on your site in such a way that they’re not renewed or reloaded each time a visitor drops by, thus improving your site’s performance. As Siteground already has its own plugin for this, I don’t use an additional one. I do, however, use Cloudflare, which is a service that also increases site performance.
Aside from the free plugins above and a few addition ones, you could also use these (paid) premium plugins:
Easy Social Share Buttons: a plugin for social share buttons that has a ton of customization options
EWWW Image Optimizer Cloud: EWWW is a service that lets you optimize your images while you upload them. I chose the (paid) cloud version because it’s less heavy on the site than the plugin that optimizes your photos on-site vs in the cloud. I only pay $1-$5/month for this depending on how many photos I optimize.
Thrive Leads: a tool that easily lets me create and customize signup forms for my email list, run A/B tests on them and place them anywhere on my site.
WPML: the plugin that allows me to fully translate this site and run it as a bilingual English/Dutch blog.
When you want to install a plugin, always check when it was last updated and if it’s compatible with the latest version of WordPress. You should always use the latest version of WordPress and it’s probably not a good idea to install a plugin that hasn’t been updated in two years.
8. Sign up for Google Analytics
When you’ve put all this effort into starting a blog, you also want to know if people are actually reading it, right? After you’ve placed a tracking code on your website (you can do that manually or use a plugin), Google Analytics shows you where your readers are coming from, how long they’re staying on your site, what they’re reading and more. Signing up for an account is free.
As I mentioned in the previous section, I use the free Google Analytics by Monster Insights plugin to easily connect my blog with Google Analytics. There are other plugins that do this, but I prefer this one as it offers some additional tracking options.
9. Sign up for Google Search Console
This platform gives you additional information about the on- and offsite performance of your travel blog. While Google Analytics focuses on what visitors to your blog do, Google Search Console (formerly known as “Google Webmaster Tools”) focuses on how your website performs in search as well as technically. Signing up is free.
Side note: get help when needed
The above stuff is pretty basic and there are tons of guides online that explain step-by-step how to create a blog and get the basic technical stuff right. As time advances, though, you might want to do some more specific and specialized things. Or you might run into some issues. One option is always to do the research and try to do/solve things yourself, the other is to get some help.
10. Get an email address for your blog
Remember how Siteground offered you a free domain name for a year? Well, most hosts also allow you to create your own email address based on your blog’s domain name. Our blog email address, for example, is c[at]3monkeytravels[dot]com.
We highly recommend getting an email address like this as it looks more professional than a Gmail address. The only downside to an email address based on your domain name is that it’s quicker seen as possible spam by email providers.
11. Start an email list
Mailchimp and Aweber allow you to automatically send out blog post updates while still gathering email addresses and building that list.
We used Mailchimp for quite a while and while it was great for the first few years, We’ve now switched to Wix which gives me a lot more options in terms of segmenting my subscribers and automating things.
12. Develop a content and promotion strategy for your blog and social media channels
You already decided what your travel blog will be about, so the posts you’ll write will be related to that topic about most of the time. But there’s a ton of other stuff to consider as well.
How often will you post?
How will you promote your articles and where?
Which social media will you be active on and how often?
What about Search Engine Optimization?
Will you focus on text, photography or video?
These are all things you need to figure out for yourself and I recommend creating some kind of strategy or plan to follow when you get started. You’ll probably change that strategy a gazillion times, but that doesn’t matter. The thing is that if you want to test things, you need to have a control first. If you want to know how often it’s best for you to post on Facebook, you need to post x times/day for x weeks before you can switch to y times/day and properly compare.
Craft a strategy, then optimize it as you go.
Decide on a schedule and stick to it
Now, I know this one is controversial. I know some rather big travel bloggers who pump out a bunch of posts one week when they’re based somewhere and then won’t post for two weeks while they’re traveling. I don’t think that’s bad at all, but when you’re getting started, I’d highly recommend you stick to a schedule for yourself, more than for your readers.
If you don’t have one, it will be so much easier to postpone publishing and do other things. Like being on Facebook. All. Day. Long.
What really helps me is the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin. It gives you a calendar view of your scheduled and draft posts right in your WordPress dashboard so that it’s very easy to see whether you’ve been posting consistently or not and when you should start writing again. If you see an empty calendar, hit refresh. If you still see an empty calendar, make some coffee and get started.
Be an expert
As I’ve mentioned in the beginning, it’s not enough to decide you’ll write about travel when you decide to create a blog. You have to be more specific than that or you’ll get swallowed whole by the ocean of travel blogs out there.
The top travel blogs, the most popular travel blogs, the best travel blogs, they all have something that makes them stand out and the people behind those blogs are considered experts. Not only by their readers and followers, but also by other members of the travel industry.
That’s why I think that it’s not enough that you know how to create a blog, you also need to know how to build a blog and to me those are two different things. While everyone can create a blog in a day, not everyone can build a blog, no matter how much time they’re given.
Building a blog, to me, means building an audience, building a brand, building a reputation and building authority. The result of creating a blog is a visible and visitable (yes, that’s a word now) website on the Internet. The result of building a blog is being known as the person/website people go to for X.
Storytelling? You need Mike from Fevered Mutterings. Worried about traveling as a celiac? Go to Jodi from Legal Nomads.
What will your expertise be?
Know who you’re writing for
When you’re just starting out, you probably won’t have a solid reader chore and it might be hard to know who the “typical” (if there is such a thing) reader of your travel blog is. It’s your job to both create that reader and get to know him.
By “create” I mean that you should always write with a specific reader in mind. Give him or her a name, decide what his hobbies are, where he’s from, what his travel style is. Then write for him. Don’t write one post full of erudite language and historical and say things like “amazeballs” in the next while only showing photos. Unless, maybe, your typical reader has a split personality.
By “get to know him” I mean that you should put in the effort to get to know your readers. Ask them questions, answer their emails, interact with them on social media. Show them that you’re there and that you care. Be thankful that they’re spending a portion of their time reading your words.
13. Learn from others
Networking and casual learning
Networking and learning, two things everyone running a business should do. Even if you don’t look at your travel blog as a business (yet), networking and continuous learning are essential to improve your blogging skills and get your name out into the industry field.
Of course, you can learn a lot by simply surfing the internet, but there’s such a mass of information out there that it’s sometimes hard to find what you need or to even know what it is that you’re looking for. That’s why I’m listing a few places where you get advice, ask questions and exchange ideas on travel blogging.
1. On the road
On the road? Yes! You sure aren’t the only travel blogger out there, so why not meet up with likeminded spirits? A quick Facebook post or tweet can lead you to other bloggers traveling to the same places as you are. Meet them for a drink and talk business. Or not.
2. Conferences and trade fairs
Conferences like TBEX are specifically geared towards travel bloggers. They invite top travel bloggers to talk about things like building a brand, monetizing your blog, SEO and more. You’ll definitely learn something new during there. If not during the presentation, then definitely by talking to other bloggers.
Trade fairs like WTM and ITB are more focused on networking and meeting industry people. They can seem overwhelming as they usually they place in ginormous event halls, but if you wear sneakers you’ll be perfectly fine.
Check here for more blog conferences.
3. Facebook groups
Chocolate knows there are Facebook groups for just about everything, including travel blogging. If you just do a search within Facebook for “travel blog” or “travel blogging” you’ll already find quite a few, but to make it easier we’ve listed some of the groups that you can be a member of:
We Travel We Blog
The Business of Blogging
Travel Press Trips
Travel Video Group
Travel Bloggers Network
Global Bloggers Network
When you find a group you’d like to join, you’ll need to send a request and then it’s up to the moderators of that group to let you in or not. When they do, make sure to read the group’s rules and follow them. In general, spamming and self-promotion are not done.
Also, try to pay it forward. You might not be able to help often when you’re only starting out, but don’t hold back when you can. People will appreciate it.
1. The Superstar Blogging school and Business of Blogging course
Superstar Blogging is a multi-course travel blogging school created by the famous Nomadic Matt. His The Business of Travel Blogging course focuses on turning your travel blog into a money making business by creating your own products and working with affiliate partners. It covers all the basics for beginning bloggers, from how to create a blog on WordPress to growing traffic, and ads in-depth information through webinars and interviews. While there are some other features as well, the real gem for me is the secret Facebook group where you get to interact with some of the biggest travel bloggers out there and where every question asked is one that will teach you something new. Read my review here.
Aside from that main course, Matt also has courses on travel writing, videography and photography for which he’s worked together with experts in those different areas.
2. Niche Site Freedom
Niche Site Freedom is not a travel blogging course, but a course focused on building niche sites to earn money through affiliate marketing. However, I think it’s a great course to take if you want to learn how to properly optimize your site for Google as it teaches you how to do keyword research like no freely available blog post out there will.
14. Start making money
You’ve been waiting for this, haven’t you? It’s okay, I need to pay my rent as well, but I’m going to be completely honest with you: after more than four years of travel blogging, I’m still full-on experimenting with monetization strategies. One thing that I do know is that the strategies that work are different for every travel blog and that you will really need to find your own way if you want to turn your own travel blog into a business.
That being said, here are some things you could try:
This tactic is getting outdated and it could get you into serious trouble with Google, but it’s still being done and so I wanted to include it in the list.
Brand buy links not to reach your audience, but to improve their search engine rankings. Google sees this as cheating and will slap any site that does it if it finds out. You can read more about this here.
Sponsored posts can take many forms. The “bad” kind of sponsored posts are those which aren’t aimed at reaching the audience but are merely published for the link to a brand’s website in them. This is basically link selling as discussed above.
A more proper kind of sponsored posts are those either written by the blogger or by the third party to promote or raise awareness about the third party. This kind of sponsored posts has as a goal to get the third party in front of the blogger’s audience.
Banners are the typical square or rectangular ads you see on many websites. You can sell them directly at a flat rate or work through a network, which will likely pay you based on the number of views or clicks the ad gets.
Another way to place banner ads on your travel blog is by using Google Adsense, but you should be aware that you’re not likely to make a lot of money with Google Adsense if your traffic is low.
Affiliate marketing works like this: you recommend a product on your travel blog by using a special link and if someone buys that product by clicking on that link you earn a commission at no extra cost to them. For example, if you’d like to join the Travel Blog Success course I’m in and you do so by clicking on one of the links to TBS on this blog, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.
Sometimes affiliate programs even have benefits for the buyer: if you sign up for Airbnb using my link I receive $25 or €23 Airbnb credit, but so do you. It’s a win-win!
And there are also some affiliate networks that have special programs for bloggers. CJ.com, for example, has a “Content Certified” program for bloggers with more than 10,000 unique readers/month. What it comes down to is that when you’re accepted to the program, you’ll receive a higher commission from the advertisers in that program. Want to get in? Just send me an email and I’ll hook you up!
However, it’s really important to only recommend products that you have tested out for yourself and that you believe in. How do you think your readers would feel if you recommend them a product, they buy it and then later they find out that it’s actually crap? Right. Your readers are everything. Be honest with them, always. And only recommend products and services that you really think can help them. That’s what I do.
Selling your own product
Ebooks, tours, merchandising, apps… There are all kinds of things you can create yourself (or have created) to sell on your travel blog.
Travel campaigns can take many forms, but in general, these are campaigns during which you go on a trip to promote a certain brand or destination via social media and/or blog posts, during and/or after that trip. A campaign generally lasts longer than the duration of the trip.
Social media campaigns
Promoting a brand via your social media channels.
Contests and giveaways
Contests and giveaways are a bit different from sponsored posts as there’s the interactive element of the readers participating to win something. A contest can be designed specifically for the travel blog on which it appears, or a travel blog can also simply promote a contest that a brand is organizing through its own channels.
Whatever you do on your travel blog, you can do off your travel blog as well, right? Think freelance writing, videography, creating social media updates, photography, podcasts…
Figure out which type of content creation your best at, get even better and then put yourself out there, using your travel blog as a resume to get assignments.
I know the word “consultant” is used very lightly these days, but the fact is that if you’re doing a good job at something, you’re almost certainly doing a much better job than a lot of other people – people who are willing to hire you for advice and training.
Think of the knowledge you’ve acquired while blogging. Is there an area that fascinates you more? Something you really stand out in? Then why not put that knowledge to use to help brands with their marketing or bloggers work with brands, like we do.
I haven’t spoken at a conference myself yet, but there are plenty of travel bloggers who have. Although speaking doesn’t always pay, it can and even when it doesn’t, it can often lead to great networking and work opportunities.
Offering travel advice, travel planning and tours
As a travel expert (you did become an expert, didn’t you?), you can help your readers plan their next trip. You can give them advice or create an entire itinerary for them. Heck, you could even organize tours for them!
Amanda from MarocMama organizes food tours in Marrakech, Ian from Where Sidewalks Ends takes his readers off the beaten path, and Wandering Earl guides his readers around all over the world.
Whenever you receive any kind of compensation or freebie from a brand you’re working with, that should be disclosed.
And that’s that! I hope you found this post useful and now feel confident that you know how to create a blog. I don’t blog about blogging a lot, so I tried to make sure I covered as much as possible in this one guide. If you found it helpful, please take a moment to share it. It would make me ever so happy.
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you book or buy anything through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
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Wondering how to start a travel blog? You’ve come to the right place! This one-stop complete beginner’s guide to starting a travel blog will help you create a travel blog right away. Read all the way to the end for some extra tips on how to start a successful blog and actually make money from travel blogging.
I wrote this post after just one year of blogging and already at that time our blog was growing quickly. Full Suitcase is now just 3 years young and is read by over 165,000 readers every month, and growing further. More importantly, we turned our passion into a sustainable business and you can do too. This post is your guide to starting a successful travel blog from the start.
Before we go on and you will inevitably learn some new names and terms, let me tell you that I didn’t know anything about creating websites when I started. I just followed these steps and learned (sometimes the hard way) along the way. And believe me, if I can do it, you can do it too! Find out!
You may have Googled ‘how to start a blog’ or ‘how to start a travel blog’… and found tens of articles full of complicated technical explanations, words and abbreviations you’ve never heard of before… This post is not like that! I’ll try to explain the whole process of starting a travel blog in a simple language and to guide you through the essential first steps.
This is a beginner’s guide showing you how to start a travel blog or any kind of website. We talk about the practical and the technical side, before you actually start to write. Just follow the steps and you’ll learn how to start a blog the right way from the very beginning.
TIP: Starting a travel blog is not different from starting any other blog, so these tips also apply for other niches. No matter what your new blog is about, there are several steps you need to take before you can actually start to blog. And there are some common mistakes you definitely want to avoid in the beginning. Find out!
Starting a travel blog & how to avoid common beginner’s mistakes
Here is a short overview of the process of starting a blog. You can click to jump ahead. However, I recommend that you read the entire post, so you don’t miss an important step on how to start a travel blog the right way!
TIP: Bookmark this post for future reference. I wish I had done it with some of the information I found when starting my travel blog! I couldn’t remember where I read one or the other tip and had to research the same information again and again…
How to start a blog in 7 easy steps:
How to start a travel blog – tips for beginners
1. Choose a niche for your travel blog
Before starting a travel blog, you should consider what your niche is. Travel in itself is already a niche, but if you really want to succeed, you should probably define it even further.
Your niche might be backpacking trips, sustainable travel, or travel with a handicap. Whatever it is, stick to it and try to be consistent. Oh well, it doesn’t harm to write an article a bit off-topic once in a while (like this beginner’s guide to starting a travel blog ;)).
What is our niche? Full Suitcase family travel blog is a website that not only inspires travel, but also shows people how to make that dream trip of their own. We write for people who travel when their school/work schedule allows; for those who want to get the most out of their vacations and to discover the world rather than lie on the beach. We don’t backpack, we don’t lead nomadic lifestyle and we don’t homeschool our kids, and so I write for people like us. Our mission is to help people to make the most of every trip.
2. Pick a name for your blog
So you made the decision to start a travel blog and you can’t wait. You want it done as quickly as possible, preferably yesterday. You can start a travel blog just a couple of hours, but hold on just a little bit!
Before you continue with the next steps, you have to pick a name for your blog. Choosing a name is the single most important step when starting a blog. Take your time!
How to choose a good name for your blog
It’s best if your blog name matches your domain name. Domain name is the URL of your blog. Our blog is Full Suitcase, domain – fullsuitcase.com.
Keep your blog name short and easy to remember. The shorter the blog name, the better. Choosing a good name for your website is probably the biggest challenge as available short domain names are very difficult to find. Try two or maximum three words and don’t get discouraged when the 257 options you’ve tried appear to have been taken. Be creative, be persistent and you’ll find the perfect name for your blog. You can check for available domain names here. Whatever you pick, make sure it’s simple, easy to spell and memorable so that your readers can easily find you back.
Think long-term. Are you planning to start a family travel blog and think of using words like a stroller or a toddler in the name? Think twice: your kids will grow up and you will not be traveling with a baby or a toddler forever, so pick a blog name that will stand the test of time.
Consider your market. If you want to start a blog in English, you may want to buy a domain name .com. If your new blog is aimed towards a specific audience in another country, it’s probably wiser to register a domain name with the extension that is used there, e.g. .fr for France or .de for Germany. Of course, you can register the same domain name with different extensions (travelblogx.com, travelblogx.net, travelblogx.co.uk, etc).
3. Register your domain name and buy hosting for your website
How to buy a domain name
Before you just click on the first site offering to register your domain name, consider that it might be easier and simpler to first register with a web hosting company and buy your domain through them. Often, the domain name and/or registration is included when you sign-up for the hosting services, so you may want to look for a good web service hosting provider first.
I use and recommend SiteGround. They make starting a blog really easy and the domain name is included in the standard hosting package.
What is hosting and why do you need it
I pay my hosting provider a monthly fee to rent their internet space so that people can actually find my site on the web. Theoretically, you can host your website on any computer or server, but if you don’t know anything about it, register with a reputable hosting company and save yourself a lot of stress.
What about free hosting
Why should you pay for hosting your blog instead of just choosing one of a hundred free hosting providers? Good question.
If you are looking for a travel diary type of blog, then by all means go ahead and sign up with a free hosting company like WordPress.com (not to be confused with WordPress.org – see further). If, however, you want to have full control over your blog and consider monetizing it, you should start your own website and host it with a web hosting company. That way you are free to decide if and how you monetize it.
It doesn’t cost a fortune either, so don’t worry about that. At SiteGround you can get a startup hosting deal from just 3,95 USD per month. You might find a cheaper hosting provider, but don’t just go for the cheapest option. You might save a dollar a month, but get stuck with a crappy service, like I was (see further).
TIP: Sign up with a really good, reputable hosting company, like SiteGround, from the start. It will save you lots of frustrations.
How to find a reliable and affordable hosting company for your blog
I use and truly recommend SiteGround as one of the very best price-quality hosting solutions available. It was not my first hosting provider when I started to blog, but I switched to SiteGround after my site had experienced regular downtimes at Bluehost and I never looked back.
I originally chose Bluehost based on some recommendations I found on the Internet. But it appears that those recommendations were outdated and the quality and customer service at Bluehost has gone downhill ever since. I’ve heard nothing but bad experiences from other bloggers who are with Bluehost and most of them switched to SiteGround, just as I did.
Before switching, I wanted to be sure I was making the right choice and so I did a lot of research. I also consulted with a Facebook group of more than 6,000 web designers and tech guys and most of them recommended SiteGround as the very best shared hosting company. The prices at SiteGround are very comparable most other companies, but the quality and the service are beyond comparison! SiteGround is faster, safer, and more reliable.
Recently I had several issues which were not related to SiteGround (but I didn’t know that at that time and neither did they) and they helped me to solve the problem even if it wasn’t really theirs to solve. Their customer service is just that good!
When starting a blog, you probably have enough with a basic hosting plan at SiteGround. You can always upgrade later if need be. You also have 30-day money back guarantee so you don’t have much to loose. And, of course, you can always switch to another plan or another hosting provider if your blog traffic skyrockets.
Buy hosting for your blog
Are you ready to start a travel blog?
STEP I: Buy a domain name and hosting – sign up with SiteGround now.
TIP: Choose the cheapest hosting option in the beginning. Upgrade if/when needed.
TIP: Sign up for a longer period of time from the beginning. All hosting companies give you very competitive rates in the beginning, and at SiteGround you can secure the cheap starting rate for the whole period.
TIP: At SiteGround you have a choice between different data centres. Pick the one that is closest to your audience, so let’s say Chicago if your blog is mainly meant for the U.S. market.
4. Install WordPress for your blog
Now that you have a domain name and a reliable hosting company, you can finally start a blog.
TIP: Don’t try to reinvent the wheel – use WordPress for your blog.
What is WordPress and why do you need it for your blog?
WordPress is a FREE website creation tool. Basically, it’s the easiest and most powerful blogging and website content management system. More than 74 million (!) websites are created using WordPress. Take my word for it, WordPress is the best choice when starting a blog.
Please note that you need WordPress.org for self-hosted sites. WordPress.com is for free blogging solutions and you don’t want those if you are serious about blogging. Every day I hear bloggers say that they wish they knew this and signed up with WP.org from the start.
How to install WordPress?
STEP II: Install WordPress through your cPanel at SiteGround.
With SiteGround, WordPress installation is very easy through their cPanel. By the way, WordPress recommends SiteGround as one of the best hosting service providers and they work together making the whole installation process easy and simple.
Sign in to your SiteGround user area and go to the cPanel (cPanel can be found under ‘My Accounts’). Under ‘WordPress Tools’ you can find WordPress Installer. Click on it and follow the further instructions from there. It’s really as easy as it sounds. And if you get stuck, the amazing SiteGround support will help you figure it out right away.
TIP: You’ll need to choose user name and password to access your WordPress panel. Don’t use ‘Admin’ or ‘YourBlogName’ or your name as your user name. Pick something that no-one could easily guess and make sure you choose a really strong password. Hackers trying to log into your website will become a daily reality, so protect your blog from the very beginning.
WordPress is a bit overwhelming in the beginning, so you’ll need to start reading a lot, but there is tons of information out there and you’ll get there sooner than you think. If you want to create a really nice website quickly, you should get a premium WordPress theme.
5. Buy a premium WordPress theme to create your travel website
STEP III: Buy a premium WordPress theme.
What is a WordPress theme and why do you need one?
WordPress theme helps you to design your website. Changing your theme changes how your site looks on the front-end, i.e. what a visitor sees when they browse on your website.
Why can’t you just use a free WordPress theme?
WordPress comes with lots of free themes that you can use to create your website. Many websites and beginner’s blogs use one of the free WordPress themes. However, free themes come with many restrictions and you will not be able to customise many of the features. You’ll have a travel blog that looks like thousands of others and you’ll quickly get frustrated about not being able to customise your blog the way you want it.
I’ve tried two of the most popular free WordPress themes in the beginning, but quickly gave up on them. I recommend investing in a premium theme from the start. A premium theme costs around 50 – 100 USD and it’s really worth the investment. In addition, X-theme, the theme I use and recommend has such an amazing knowledge base and support that it’ll save thousands of dollars on web designer fees along the way.
Buy a WordPress premium theme
Do you know that an average web designer charges you at least 2,000 USD to create a (very simple) website? You pay for their time and experience, but if you have more time than money I recommend that you do this yourself.
I haven’t used any website design services for my website, but I purchased a premium theme – the X-theme and started building my blog. I didn’t know anything about making websites. No html, css, php and other impossible words. It was really overwhelming in the beginning as I started from scratch, but I’m not the only one doing this and you can do it too.
Thanks to the great continuous support from the amazing team at X-theme and their extensive knowledge base and tutorials, I was able to create this blog all by myself. And while not everything is perfect and I continue changing and tweaking my site as I go along, I love the idea that I have the full control over my site and I am able to solve most problems without any help by now.
TIP: If you are starting a blog and don’t have thousands of dollars to spend for web developers, I can highly recommend X-theme for building your website.
It’s simple and easy to use for a complete beginner, but it has so many amazing features and possibilities that it’s used by the most savvy web designers to build some unbelievable websites. Let the reviews and their showcase gallery speak for themselves.
I did a lot of research before I chose the X-theme and I haven’t regretted it for a second. Their service is second to none and the support answers each and every question with unbelievable amount of patience. I would have never been able to create this blog without them! It’s the best 64 USD I’ve ever spent.
6. Install essential WordPress plugins
STEP IV: Install Best free WordPress plugins.
What are WordPress plugins and why do you need them?
When I started this travel blog, I had not the slightest idea of what plugins are and what they do. In human language, plugins are software, little programs, apps if you want to, that add different functions to your website. For example, you can have a plugin to extract your 10 most popular posts, to see how many visitors you get and what posts they read, or to protect your site from illegal login attempts.
There are tens of thousands of free and premium plugins available. And while it might be tempting to install one for every feature you want, keep in mind that they slow down your site and can create conflicts, etc. So only install the plugins you really need.
Don’t worry too much about it in the beginning – you’ll learn more along the way and you’ll know which plugins are best suited for your blog. You can always delete a plugin and/or add a new one.
Which plugins to use when starting a website?
As I said, I’m not a technical person and I’ve learned most of the things along the way. So this post is basically a summary of months’ of research, tips and recommendations from web designers and tech geeks who use WordPress and create websites on a daily basis.
Here are some features you really should consider using from the very beginning. All the plugins I mention here are FREE and can be easily installed from your WordPress dashboard. I use each of them myself. In fact, I use quite a few more, but this is the basics, the plugins you need in t-from the very beginning when starting a new blog.
Wordfence Security plugin. Protect your website from illegal login attempts. This is a must! This plugin also takes care of caching (=making your site faster) and that’s an added bonus.
W3 total cache is another highly recommended caching plugin, but if you use Wordfence, it might be unnecessary.
UpdraftPlus – WordPress Backup/Restore plugin. It’s the easiest way to always keep a recent backup of your site. Sign-up with Dropbox to keep your files on their cloud service and configure this plugin in such a way that it takes care of automatic backups. It only takes a couple of minutes of your time. You really should have a backup as you never know when things go wrong or you make a mistake somewhere. I’ve used mine several times already! Most hosting companies (SiteGround included) also keep at least one recent backup of your site, but it might be a bit more tricky to get access to it or to control when the backups are made, so I still recommend using this plugin.
Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions. This plugin helps you to keep the size of your website under control by cleaning up the older versions of revised posts, etc.
Yoast SEO. If you know nothing about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), but want readers to find your new blog on Google and other search engines, this plugin will help you do just that.
Google Analytics by MonsterInsights. This plugin allows you to track your blog’s statistics easily and always stays up to date with the newest features in Google Analytics.
Akismet. This plugin helps you deal with spam comments. You know your blog is out there when you start getting spam comments. Sometimes tens a day, even if your blog is new. You need this plugin from the start.
Jetpack by WordPress.com. It’s a multi-functional plugin with a huge variety of functions. It’s already installed when you first install WordPress, but it’s up to you if you want to keep it or not and which functions you want to use. I like their stats function to be able to quickly see what people read, etc.
7. Do some planning and start building your new travel blog
STEP V: Start writing – time to actually start to blog!
You may want to start with at least a few pages on your blog before your website goes live. Home page is important as are About and Contact pages. Start with this and create new pages as your blog grows. To create a page, login to your WordPress account and choose Page – Add New.
Before your travel blog goes live, try to write at least 2-3 blog posts so that people have more to read than just the initial post they came to your site for. To create a blog post, login to your WordPress dashboard, then go to Posts – Add New.
Decide how often you want to publish and stick to your schedule. Be realistic about what you can actually do and keep in mind that researching and writing a good blog post takes lots of time. Unless you have no other commitments, blogging on a daily basis is just not feasible. You should try being consistent as your readers will have certain expectations. It’s better to publish less articles on a regular basis than to publish 10 articles one week and nothing the next one. You can write your posts when you have time and use the WordPress post schedule function to publish it later.
8. Other tips and advice for beginners starting a travel blog
What you should know about image optimisation when starting a website
Beautiful images are very important for any blog, but it’s especially the case for a travel blog. Photos sell your story. If you are not very good in photography, you may want to invest in professional-quality images for your blog (google ‘stock images’) or take a photography course. As a start, you can check my post for simple tips that will improve your travel photos immediately.
One of the most common beginners mistakes is using high resolution big size images on your website. It increases your website size tremendously and slows down your site. Do some research about image optimisation for web use and make sure all the images you upload are optimised.
I use Photoshop software to edit the pictures and to resize them for my travel blog. Most images I use on this website are 878 x 578 px. Before uploading them, I use the TinyPNG software to decrease the size of the images even more. This free software strips all unnecessary digital information that has nothing to do with the picture itself and helps you save 30-40% in image size.
Website speed is a very important factor, but it’s often overlooked. Speed up your website and get to the first page of Google!
Create social media accounts for your blog
You may not use them (all) in the beginning, but it’s advisable to reserve an account on social media with your blog’s name as soon as possible.
Social media is the best way to connect with like-minded people and create a community. Facebook is important, but I get most traffic to my bog from Pinterest and I wish I had started with it earlier. I also use Instagram and since a few days Twitter as well, but to tell the truth I have difficulties keeping up with it all. Social media is important, but it takes tremendous amount of time and effort. In the beginning it’s really overwhelming, so concentrate your efforts on the social media that makes most sense for your blog and grow from there.
Pinterest is my biggest traffic referrer and it grew dramatically since I started scheduling my pins to be pinned at the best possible times. So start the right way from the start – sign up with Tailwind! It’s the best small investment I made in my blog so far! It’s FREE for up to 100 pins a month, so give it a try!
Started a travel blog – enjoy it!
Enjoy it! There is no point in figuring out how to start a blog and investing your time, money, and energy into it if you don’t love it. Don’t expect an easy ride, certainly in the beginning. You will have your share of difficulties and frustrations and there will be times when you’ll feel like quitting, but if you are passionate about what you do, you’ll get there! If you are interested, you can read my observations after six months of blogging in my older post.
9. How to monetize your travel blog? Learn from the very best!
STEP VI: Make your blog an instant success – take the best travel blogging course from the start!
Do you want to start a successful travel blog and make money right from the start? Then don’t try to reinvent the wheel and learn from the best!
One of the most successful bloggers, Nomadic Matt, has created a Superstar Blogging Course that will teach you all you need to know about starting a travel blog. It’s the most complete guide to starting a travel blog you can find. Superstar Blogging is a multifaceted school teaching you all aspects of running an online travel website. It includes courses on travel writing, photography, videography, and most importantly, the business of actually running a blog. If you are serious about your travel blog and want to make money from your travel blog, don’t be afraid to invest in it. It’s the fastest way to grow quickly! These courses are an investment in your future that will help you leap beyond the competition and will give you more value for less money than any other program out there!
Open AffiliateWindow and ShareASale accounts and sign up for several affiliate programmes that are a good match with your blog. It won’t be much money in the beginning, but it offers a lot of possibilities. Many established bloggers get the most of their income via these platforms.
TIP: If you found this article helpful, I suggest that you bookmark it and/or save it on Pinterest for future reference. It might be very useful to consult it later on. Not on Pinterest yet? Sign up right away – Pinterest is a huge traffic referrer to mine and many other blogs.