It’s a way to inspire others, to record your journey for yourself – and you can earn money. No wonder, so many people ask me, how this entire blogging thing works. After all, it’s one thing to get on Tumblr and reblog a few photos. It’s another to blog professionally.
Therefore I’ve decided to start writing a complete guide to setting up, maintaining, promoting and – yes – monetising a travel blog. This guide I will release in separate parts. If you want to be notified about future parts, make sure to be signed up to the Feathered Messenger.
But now let’s start with Part ONE:
Welcome to my new guide series about how to start a travel blog.
As with everything in life, we will have to start at the very beginning. Some of you might say, they’ve got this part behind them already and that might be true for some.
And yet, if you stumbled upon this guide, there’s a good chance, you are not happy with something about your existing travel blog. Especially this first part of this guide might be able to help and inspire you to bring your travel blog to the next level.
The second part goes more into the technical detail about how to set up the ground structure of your blog. I will show you how to get your own domain, server and to set up your first WordPress blog.
If that sounds too overwhelming for you, fear not: I will try to keep everything as clear and simple as possible. Also, after the different steps, you can always take a little break and go for a walk wherever on this planet you currently are.
Generally speaking: In this post, we will work on the foundation of your travel blog.
Let’s face it: No stabile house has been built on a weak foundation yet. That’s why we’ll try to get that part right, right from the start.
This is a part, many bloggers struggle with most and I understand the pain: I have made the mistake to ignore this step – at least partly – many, many times. Sometimes we are so convinced by our idea, that our emotionally driven way of thinking keeps us from seeing that it’s actually crap. Not gonna lie. Even though, I have learned to see my projects more objectively, I still struggle with this every now and then.
It’s incredibly important to understand, that the niche you are planning to work in, can make or break your blog. It’s hard, but at the end of the day you have to take a step back, look at your long term project and ask yourself: Does anybody but me and my mum give a damn about this?
At the end of the day – if you want to earn money with your blog and/or grow a decent audience – it’s mostly everybody else but you and your mum, who should care.
When it comes to finding success as a blogger, audience is everything.
Obviously, I’m not suggesting you should pour your heart blood into something you hate doing. That goes against everything I do and preach.
So, the trick lies in finding something you enjoy doing, that others will care about.
It’s a nice feeling to find (and promote to) the people, that care about what you do.
It’s a mind blowing feeling if these people find you and promote for you.
And this will only happen if you find the right niche.
So get rid of all these overwhelmingly positive emotions about your current idea and look at it objectively, asking the following questions. It also helps to ask other people the same questions. Sometimes people who don’t know anything about blogging (or your niche for that matter). You can always explain possible solutions to them. But if you can’t, then you’ve got a hole.
If you can answer these questions either positive or with something better than “I don’t know”, you are on a good way. If not, you might want to let go of that angry pride, that starts to boil inside your chest (yeah, I know what it feels like…) and redesign your idea.
Nope. Question Number three asks about the maximum amount of interested people for a reason. Many people are into travelling or following other people’s travels – definitely more than 500.000. And therefore: There are many people who blog about travelling in general.
What does that mean? That there’s sh!tloads of competition out there. And competition makes life not exactly easier.
So how can you stand out? By going more into detail with your niche.
But before we do this, I want to put one detail more into perspective: You, you yourself. You are part of that niche as well, of course. There will be some people who come to your content to see exactly you and your perspective.
I have these people in my audience as well. And I am very grateful for them. They are often the most loyal audience I have. So make sure to treat them the way they deserve.
But unless you are a famous person to begin with or have such an outstanding strategy of branding yourself, I wouldn’t rely too much on this part. Anyway, if you are that good on branding yourself it’s likely, you don’t have to continue reading from here on anyway.
This really varies. But I will try to give you a blueprint that’s as easy as possible to follow. Goal is to find something that has a minimum amount of interested people, but also a maximum amount, so there isn’t too much competition out there.
That was probably one of the reasons why I felt so uncomfortable starting a travel blog, when I travelled with my rucksack. While it’s surely an amazing thing to do, it’s still not special enough to stand out. There are thousands of travel bloggers out there that do exactly that and some of them probably do it better.
Now, obviously, its not wrong to travel with a rucksack. But the backpacking niche is pretty much as fully packed as the thing that you keep all your things in. It’s about finding some additional twist. And no, don’t say minimalism now.
For me, it was a change in the means of travelling. It came to me in a different way, though. I was lucky, wanting to travel in a way, not so many people travel in, and yet enough people are interested in it. Additionally, I know how to work with with many sorts of media professionally and make use of it, to show myself more as the human I am, than just a writer with tips, hiding behind a keyboard.
I’m Robin. Travelling Europe in my van Hermes, documenting the journey and the lifestyle with video while giving my best to inspire people to travel more themselves.
There’s a few things in there, that gave me a good niche. Firstly, I live in the van full time. There aren’t so many people who do (and document) this. Also, I gave my van a personality. Furthermore, there are even less people doing this in Europe. I know of plenty of van dwellers in the US, but in Europe it really is just a hand full, as far as my research went. And then I decided to go with the medium video – professional video.
And while the video episodes of About Wings give the project a very human, and sometimes fragile touch – most of my new audience arrives via the written articles with travel tips and my instagram channel, where I document the more current story with photos and shorter texts.
I’m even considering, starting a podcast as well, at the moment.
It’s the complete concept package, that makes the project round.
But let’s start at the beginning. You will see, on your journey to becoming a successful travel blogger, you will learn a lot and your brand and blog will slowly start to evolve by itself.
But let’s get back to my example. I started to travel in a special way, you can’t find that often on the web: With a (quite small) van in Europe.
Welcome to my niche.
What else are you passionate about, except travelling?
Reading? Eating? Riding? Theater? Workout? Abandoned places?
Write down all these passions and interests you came up with and turn them into possible niche ideas. For example:
Reading: Visit the locations in the books you currently read. Travel to the places, the top hundred authors in history died in. Meet your favourite alive authors and show the area, where they live.
Eating: Try the most unusual dishes in the world. Review the top restaurants on the globe from a hitchhiker’s perspective. Or be the traveller who finds locals who want to share their recipes with you and the world.
Riding: Travel the world on the back of your horse (seriously, if you do this, message me on email@example.com). Travel the world to present the different horse races.
Theater: Present the most interesting theatre buildings in the world. Review plays they have there.
Workout: Not gonna lie: Yoga on some cliff or beach is being overdone by now. How about doing your crossfit program in a different country every week?
Abandoned places: You will actually see this in About Wings every now and then. I love abandoned places. So when I find one, I like to bring them into the show. How about travelling to find ghost towns and abandoned houses worldwide? I’d be audience for that!
You get the picture.
The more you can go into detail with this, the better. Obviously, don’t make it too random. A horse riding hitchhiker, travelling the deserts of the earth to expand their goldfish collection, might be a bit too nichy. Although, it totally sounds like something so weird, I would like to read about 😉
After you’ve written down the ideas about how you could stand out of the crowd, it’s down to checking whether or not your idea would actually work out.
And luckily, there are ways to do this.
Let’s take the horse riding traveller example. I’m literally going to go through this process with you, as I write this. It might not work at first try, alright?
So, first of all, we need to hop over to Google Adword’s Keyword Planner. Don’t get scared, we are not going to buy any ads and we aren’t going to pay a dime at this stage.
Here you choose ‘Search for new keyword and ad group ideas’ and define search terms that come up first, when you think about your targeted niche. In my case, that was ‘horse travelling’, ‘travel on a horse’ and ‘riding traveller’. The more you can find the better, obviously.
In my case, I preferred to keep it international and assume that people who type in these words, speak enough English to understand my new blog.
First thing that pops up are the results for ‘ad group ideas’. I immediately noticed, that horseback vacations seem to be quite popular. A couple of thousand people search for the terms ‘horseback vacation’, ‘horseback holiday’ and ‘holiday horse’ monthly.
While that surely isn’t our topic, it opens up a beautiful target audience when it comes to monetisation. In Google Adwords these terms seem to have high competition as well. Businesses are willing to pay quite some money to advertise to this audience. Also a good thing for us.
Clicking over to ‘Keyword ideas’, however, we can see, that our initial idea isn’t very sought after. That might be due to the fact, that the idea might be quite new in the age of the internet. This could be good or bad.
Check it on Google itself, and while you start typing, it already shows you suggestions. Make sure to use these suggestions. They are the most popular things, most similar to what you have typed in so far. they made me stop looking for ‘travelling on a horse’ and change it to ‘travelling on a horseback’. And e voilá! Who would have thought: there are actually guilds, dedicated to long distance horse travelling and questions about it in forums.
That is a very good thing. It shows, that there are interested people. And the guilds don’t have a blog and even their websites seem quite outdated. At the same time, they hold some really valuable information, that you might want to use for your travels and your blogging research.
By the way, while I wrote this, I couldn’t help, but think of Rick of ‘The Walking Dead’. The main character of the beginning of the popular TV show is a police officer, who awakens in an apocalyptic zombie overrun world after being shot. He continues to explore on a horseback until the hose sadly falls victim to the dead. There might be great comparisons and blog topics in this.
The next thing that came to my mind was the term ‘Modern Cowboy’, which I immediately looked for and surprise, surprise: over 2.000 people look for this ad group keyword monthly. That would be only the main keyword which would be great to target and an amazing branding opportunity. Just sayin’.
In my eyes, we just stumbled upon a nice niche. And I’m a bit annoyed I can’t use it myself 😛
The modern cowboy, who travels (let’s say) the US, blogging about his experiences and adventures, while supporting horseback vacations and those who would like to go on one.
We have come very far with our riding adventure blog. But there is one major thing I’d like to mention as well, and that you should really decide upon.
The original idea for About Wings was to make a travel video series. At some point, however, I realised, it’s hard to edit professional, long video content on the road. After this realisation I stumbled upon the fact, that people reacted really well to my travel advice writing. So I started to make this priority for some time until I could start editing the video episodes again.
Furthermore I am very active on Instagram and I’m actually considering to start a podcast.
Well, I don’t want you to get overwhelmed. Originally, my idea was about video. And you will see, that these things automatically evolve over time.
For now, I ask you to settle for one main medium, you want to publish in. There’s writing, video, audio, photography, and probably some I haven’t even considered yet.
Don’t get me wrong all of these require some amount of writing, but you should really try to find out what can transport your message best and what you feel comfortable with.
As I said, your blog might evolve over time but it’s good to have an idea what to start with.
About Wings is slowly evolving in the direction of ‘Be everywhere’. Which basically means that I’m trying to use every medium to a certain degree, since it’s makes it easier for your audience to find you and for you to distinguish what people are more into.
This is not exactly part of finding a Niche but I want you to take action at the end of this guide’s part. Hop over to domai.nr. It’s a free tool to find out whether your preferred domain is taken already.
I have tried moderncowboy.com, but I’m afraid it’s gone. Not too surprising for me, to be honest. So we will try to find variations of it, that aren’t taken yet.
A general tip is that – even in times of .travel or even .net or .org – it still makes sense to find a .com address.
After some brainstorming I came up with the slightly long, but also very keyword rich Domain moderncowboytravels.com. And here we go. It’s still available.
If you have found the perfect domain for your new travel blog, make sure to get it as soon as possible. Also, don’t just type them into a browser. There are bots around that are programmed to automatically buy domains, people tried to type in.
One .com domain usually costs about $10 USD and is, therefore quite affordable.
I hope I could help you find your personal travel blog niche with this article. It’s a very important part of setting up a new, successful blog and should not be taken too lightly.
Also, if you already have a travel blog but it’s not evolving the way you’d like it to, you should consider researching and changing your niche.
If you are completely new to long term travel and would like to hit the road more often, I can recommend my guide on travelling on a small budget ‘Travel More’.
If you found this article helpful, also make sure to share it with your friends and followers. Thank you.