How to earn with a travel blog in 2021
2020 was not the best year for travel bloggers.
While many industries were affected by COVID-19, the travel industry was one of the hardest hit due to the pandemic. The majority of travel bloggers saw their stable traffic and income disappear literally overnight as a result of the travel shutdown.
For example, the traffic on my travel blog dropped by more than 50% at the beginning of March and has been very slowly recovering since then.
In 2021, the travel industry still hasn’t fully recovered, but there is more optimism surrounding the industry and the return of travel by the end of 2021 and into 2022.
2021 is a good time to start a travel blog if you haven’t already done so. While travel is still slow right now, demand is increasing and it’s a good time to capitalize on that. Even now, it’s definitely still possible to make money with a travel blog.
Here’s everything to know about travel blogging in 2021!
How to write new content in 2021
If you’re wondering what to write about on your travel blog right now, you’re not alone!
With the travel industry coming to a virtual standstill for many months (and still not fully recovered in 2021), it’s hard to know what to write about when it comes to the topic of travel.
Some travel bloggers have continued writing content about previous trips for when travel returns to normal, while others have pivoted to writing more timely content about travel during COVID-19, travel-related things to do at home, etc. Some popular travel bloggers, like Kiersten Rich from The Blonde Abroad, even pivoted to sharing non-travel content like recipes and lifestyle tips.
I personally stuck to writing about travel for when things return to normal. For example, during this past year, I published posts on topics like the cheapest countries in Europe, tips for visiting New York at Christmas, and things to do in Salem, Massachusetts. While these travel guides were not as popular as I’d normally expect them to be because of the pandemic, these are evergreen blog posts that I expect to do well as demand for travel returns.
I noticed that, even when the pandemic started and everything was locked down, my “travel inspiration” posts (like this list of fairytale towns in Europe) still received a lot of traffic in comparison to more practical itineraries (like this guide to Lake Como.) This showed me that people still wanted to read about travel, even when they weren’t actively planning trips.
As you can see, the traffic for my blog post about fairytale towns in Europe was still popular over the summer, when travel to Europe was generally not even possible:
How to earn with a travel blog
There are quite a few ways to earn money with a travel blog, but I’m going to focus on the top three income streams that worked for me in 2020, which I plan to continue with in 2021.
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to make money with a travel blog and it accounted for over 39% of my travel blogging income in 2020. Basically, you put a link on your blog and earn money if someone clicks your link and makes a purchase. This could be a link to a hotel booking website, Airbnb, a tour company, Amazon, etc.
You can find a list of travel affiliate programs here.
+ I worked with several affiliate programs in 2020. The majority of my affiliate sales came from Amazon (from recommending travel gear and other travel-related products), Booking.com for hotel bookings, and Leisure Pass (which sells attraction passes for cities like New York and London.) Although hotel bookings and Leisure Pass sales really dropped off once the pandemic started, Amazon remained steady throughout the year.
The Amazon affiliate program is a great option for new affiliate marketers, because you earn a commission on everything someone has in their cart when they check out (not just the product they clicked on from a link on your blog.)
Another way to earn with a travel blog is through display advertising. In 2020, display advertising made up 43% of my total travel blogging income. When you have ads on your blog, you get paid based on RPM (revenue per one thousand impressions.) So, the more traffic your blog gets, the more money you can make from ads.
I’m with the ad network Mediavine, which requires 50,000 monthly sessions to apply. However, if you don’t have that much traffic, Monumetric is a good alternative (they only require 10,000 monthly pageviews.) Google AdSense is another option for newer bloggers, but I would recommend waiting until you have enough traffic to apply for Monumetric or Mediavine instead, since they tend to pay a higher RPM.
Once you have joined an ad network, one of the easiest things you can do to increase your ad earnings is to write long, detailed content that encourages readers to stay on your blog for longer periods of time. You can also interlink to other posts on your blog, which keeps people sticking around.
RPM fluctuates based on various factors, including the time of year and the type of content on your blog. RPM can vary widely, but it’s possible to earn anywhere from $3 per one thousand impressions to over $30 per one thousand impressions!
Finally, sponsored posts are a great way to earn from your travel blog. This is when a company pays you to publish a blog post (either one they have written or one that you write yourself.) I make sponsored posts from time to time whenever a company reaches out to me, but you can also get more sponsored posts by pitching your blog directly to a company. You can also join sponsored post networks like Linqia or Cooperatize, which help match bloggers with companies for sponsored posts. What you charge for a sponsored post is up to you. Newer bloggers may only charge $100 for a sponsored post, while experienced bloggers with a lot of traffic can earn over $1,000 per sponsored post.
How to get traffic to your travel blog
The two main ways I get traffic to my travel blog are from Pinterest and SEO.
2020 was not a great year for blog traffic for me. I had been gaining a lot of traffic at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, but that growth unfortunately came to a halt in March of 2020. This setback was frustrating and my traffic still hasn’t recovered to where it was before the pandemic.
However, I do think it’s just a matter of time before traffic improves again for travel blogs!
Many people think of Pinterest as a social media platform like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. But it’s really not the same at all! It’s more of a visual search engine than a social media platform.
People use Pinterest to search for travel-related content all the time. I create Pinterest graphics for my blog posts, as well as share photos from my blog posts on my Pinterest account.
This is how I get the majority of traffic to my blog!
Every time you publish a new blog post, you can spend a few minutes creating a couple of Pinterest graphics to share on Pinterest. It’s very easy to do using a free graphic design program like Canva, which even provides free Pinterest graphic templates you can use.
You can learn more about using Pinterest traffic for monetizing your travel blog in this webinar at TPAS2020.
SEO (search engine optimization) is another good way to attract traffic to your travel blog.
SEO involves writing content that will rank highly in the search results of Google, ensuring the maximum amount of traffic to your blog. For example, when you Google “travel blog names”, my blog post about how to choose a name for your travel blog is one of the top results.The best way to get started with SEO is to do keyword research (you can use a free tool like UberSuggest) to see which keywords people are searching for on Google, then write blog posts around those keywords. I also recommend the WordPress plugin Yoast SEO.
The future of travel blogging
2020 was definitely a tough year for travel blogging. However, with the end of the pandemic in sight, people are getting more comfortable with travel again and beginning to plan trips for the future. I believe that with the widespread rollout of the vaccine, travel should begin to recover by the summer or fall of 2021. With these tips, you should be able to earn from your travel blog in 2021 and beyond!