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How to become a successful travel blogger: Expert advice

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How to become a successful travel blogger: Expert advice

July 23, we hosted an online meetup “Failure stories by travel bloggers.” Sergey Pitinov from Travelpayouts interviewed Jacob Fu, co-founder of LocalAdventurer, Chris Christenson, founder of AmateurTraveler and Amateur Traveler Travel Podcast, and Claudia Tivani, founder of MyAdventuresAcrossTheWorld & Strictly Sardinia. In this post, you’ll find the most valuable tips on blogging that the guests shared at the webinar.

Below, we’ve gathered the most important tips on how to promote and monetize your blog that Claudia, Chris, and Jacob shared with us during the webinar.

  1. Start monetizing early

It’s vital to start monetizing your blog early, preferably from the very start. Adding affiliate links or looking for sponsorships is a time-consuming process, so try to do it when writing each post, not a year later. You can put up a little bit of content and then start reaching out to brands and introducing yourself. At this point, some bloggers feel pressure of not having enough audience, but there are multiple revenue streams available today, so value your work and do not be shy of having only a bit of content at first.

We couldn’t resist the chance to ask our guests how they started monetizing their projects. Jacob, Chris, and Claudia all agreed on the importance of early monetization, as they learned from practice.

Jacob Fu, co-founder of LocalAdventurer, started blogging eight years ago. For the first 1-1.5 years, he was simply putting out content, and only after that time, started to monetize the blog through affiliate marketing, ads, and sponsorships.

Chris Christensen, founder of AmateurTraveler and Amateur Traveler Travel Podcast, has been blogging for over 16 years now. After the first year of running a blog, Chris started a podcast. One of the strategies he used was selling links, but only until he got Google’s warning to cut off all search traffic.

Claudia Tavani, founder of MyAdventuresAcrossTheWorld & Strictly Sardinia, also didn’t monetize her project from the very beginning, although she strongly recommends anyone starting a blog to monetize it right away. Otherwise, it is a missed opportunity.

  1. Network

To find monetization opportunities and reach out to someone, don’t underestimate the importance of networking. It can be visiting offline events like travel conferences as well as online forums. Not only will it help you make connections but also find new friends, who go through the same struggles as you do. Travel blogging is quite a solitary job, so having someone to discuss what you are doing now is great. 

But, it’s very important to set your standards high and find the right partners, these should be businesses roughly your size and with similar audiences.

As Claudia highlights, the one big skill is to treat your blog like a business at the outset. Set your standards high when choosing networking opportunities. For example, promoting a company in exchange for a T-shirt isn’t really that kind of exchange that will lead to business growth. So if you strive for exposure, make sure it is worth the effort, for example, being featured on the home page brings actual traffic. 

  1. Find partners your size

That is why the next recommendation is to find the right partners who are roughly your size and with similar audiences. Consider reaching out to small local brands first. You need practice, and only after some time it’ll be good to introduce yourself to larger brands. And remember to reply fast to all emails and messages because it greatly improves your credibility as a business owner.

  1. Align the strategy with your audience

When choosing a strategy, make sure that it makes sense together with your website and audience. Sometimes, it’s even better to start a second site to cover a particular topic, which doesn’t correspond to the topic of the main website. For example, Claudia has a few blogs, and each has a different target audience.

  1. Be wary of selling links

It’s very tempting to make money by selling links on your website. Don’t forget that Google doesn’t support this practice, and if you disobey, you might get a letter from Google threatening to reverse all search traffic to your site, or get cut off from the traffic without notice.

  1. Outsource

You’ll also need to learn a lot of different skills to manage a blog like creating content, editing photos, and videos, SEO, web design, accounting, sales, and the like. While some bloggers find it very important to manage the entire blog themselves, others hire a whole team of experts to delegate tasks. 

You can either hire permanent employees or outsource contractors for each particular task. In the first case, you might feel pressure. For example, Jacob mentions that it was rather stressful to have people relying on him in terms of work and salary, so he switched to hiring contractors every so often instead of having a team of employees.

In the second case, you can hire experts only when you need help, for example, order a blog post with copywriters. Chris outsources podcast editing every once in awhile, as well as a few editors and writers. Like many other bloggers, he accepts guest posts, but to be featured on the site, writers should abide by Chris’ guidelines, which are quite extensive.

Claudia also hires contractors every so often, for example, to add affiliate links to existing posts, or to write content for her niche website. Claudia prefers to work with people she knows like her sister and a friend, who is a chef and manages the food section on the site. Otherwise, the best way to find someone for Claudia is a word of mouth. You might be able to handle everything yourself at first, but if you want to grow your business, being able to manage people is a very important skill to grow. 

  1. Produce great content

One key thing that often goes unsaid is to produce high-quality content. If readers find your post reliable in terms of information, they’ll be likely to find you reliable for other posts as well. So, every post’s quality counts!

It might seem hard at first, but the more you write, the easier it gets. Also, more posts bring more readers, who generate more page views and, subsequently, higher income. For example, Claudia used to write one article for a sponsored trip, but now she makes 20 to 30 posts out of each trip, because there are so many interesting topics.

Writing is a comprehensive process, including different stages—doing keyword research beforehand, following a structure, adding quality photos, etc. You can even create a checklist and consult it when preparing content.

  1. Stay true to yourself

It’s also important to display your personality, as it helps attract the audience and make them feel connected to you. For example, every time Claudia writes a newsletter and puts in a lot of herself, she gets a great response rate, with some people even saying “Thank you.”

Another way to reflect your personality is to say what you really think, and that is, if you don’t like your experience in some destination, say it. Writing the truth over sugar-coated content will help you appear as a real human being, so people can relate to you. Also, such posts usually get the biggest number of comments, as Claudia says.

To succeed, it’s very important to do what you feel passionate about. Even if you like some small village, write about it, and someone will eventually read it.

  1. Write more

In general, long reads are better for site promotion. For example, Jacob publishes posts of 3,000 words on average and makes sure to add a menu to help readers navigate through the post. As for Claudia, she chooses the amount sufficient to cover a particular topic, so every post volume is different. It can be 1,200 or 5,000 words. And a table of contents is a must in every case. 

  1. Find your frequency

One of the most important things is consistency. Decide on a number of posts and stick to your schedule. Consistency allows your audience to know when to come to your blog, but also helps you balance the time better. For instance, Claudia posts three times per week, which involves a lot of work, so it is a full-time job.

Consistency also depends on your niche, so you need to research the market.

  1. Update old content

Updating existing content is a common practice among bloggers, as it helps drive more traffic to the website and make sure you have relevant information displayed. For instance, Chris spends half time writing new content and half time updating the old one, while Claudia uses a 70%/30% ratio for new/old content.

Updating should not only include checking facts but also optimizing posts for search engines

  1. Stay relevant

To keep the interest of your audience and boost it, it’s vital to deliver the content that corresponds to the latest events and trends. For example, now, among the coronavirus pandemic, bloggers are promoting domestic travel instead of international trips, as people are now exploring destinations inside their countries. For example, Jacob focuses on day trip and road trip guides and helps readers find out what they can do in their city or state. Chris witnesses an increase in traffic on his blog on traveling around California.

  1. Use opportunities that didn’t exist before

Blogging now is not what it used to be ten or even five years ago, as new opportunities are emerging every day. Brands didn’t really consider bloggers to be a serious promotion strategy a decade ago, and there were not many sponsorship opportunities.

Today, on the other hand, bloggers have more chances to prosper. There are great affiliate and ad networks, companies are fighting for the attention of influencers, and social media allows for a great outreach and coverage. So, why not take advantage of existing opportunities that many bloggers didn’t have when they just started?

  1. Increase traffic flow

To drive more traffic to your blog, leverage SEO, social media, and reach out to other bloggers, but most importantly, deliver good content.

As for podcasts, the strategies are basically the same, with the only difference being that you’ll succeed much faster if you put yourself in front of other podcasters. You need to be exposed to the audience that you want. In contrast to blogging, podcasts get traffic mostly from people who have subscribed. Even if you speak about a place that is not common, the podcast will still get downloads, so here it’s very important to turn traffic into your audience and engage them. 

And one of the best ways to do so is to build a mailing list and send a newsletter. And it’s much easier to get someone from your audience to your site than someone from the search traffic. They’ll just click the first link in search results.