Want to know a secret? Becoming a travel blogger isn’t all that difficult…in fact, you can have your blog up and running today if you’re really serious about it!
A lot of would-be travel bloggers seem to get caught up in all of the technical details, using excuses like “I don’t know how to set up a website” or “I don’t know anything about web design” to keep them from going after their dream. But you know what? These are actually the EASY parts…and this is coming from someone who knew literally nothing about running a blog before setting up The Wandering Blonde.
Blogging has become HUGE in recent years, and as such, it’s become easier than ever to purchase a domain (that’s your blog name), acquire hosting (that’s the space you “rent” on the web so people can access your blog), and make your site look pretty (it’s as easy as purchasing a theme you like and clicking “upload”).
I’ll be diving into all of these topics (and more) in the guide below, which will walk you through the process of creating your travel blog step-by-step.
If you’re looking for something specific, you can use these link to jump to a specific section.
- Decide specifically what purpose you want your travel blog to serve.
- Find your niche (and own it).
- Get hosted and lock down your domain name (with Bluehost).
- Install WordPress.
- Make your blog beautiful with a new theme.
- Install plug-ins.
- Create kick-ass content!
1. Decide specifically what purpose you want your travel blog to serve.
I have a hunch that if you randomly select 10 travel bloggers and ask them what their number one blogging goal is, you would get 10 completely different answers.
For instance, is the purpose of your travel blog to:
- Document your travels (i.e. a digital travel journal)?
- Share your travel stories with friends and family back home?
- Develop a new creative outlet?
- Build a new stream of additional income?
- Create a full-blown travel blogging career?
Defining your blogging goals is SO important, because it helps you to narrow in and focus on what matters for YOUR blog.
If you’re ready to dive head-first into the world of professional travel blogging, you had better come prepared with a long-term strategy and the willingness to invest some real dollars into your new business. If your blog is just for fun – well, there’s no need to stress about some of the more nitty gritty details like buying a premium theme or learning about SEO best practices.
2. Find your niche (and own it).
There are a lot of travel blogs already out there on the world wide web. Like, A LOT. Thousands? Tens of thousands? So…how do you make sure yours stands out?
Hint: “Solo travel” and “female travel” and “budget travel” are all topics that used to be narrowly focused, but are now covered extensively across the web. In other words, these are not niches, but major markets.
If your goal is to develop a reader base that extends beyond your parents and your best friend (but hey, that’s cool too!) it’s absolutely vital that you find a way to carve out a niche area of expertise and own it. What makes you stand out from the crowd?
It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking, and it doesn’t have to consume ALL of your content. There just needs to be that little pinch of something special that helps your blog shine and stand out.
Managing a travel blog is just like managing any other brand, in that you need a few key tools in your toolbox in order to be successful:
- A unique, catchy, kick-ass name
- An attractive webpage
- A logo
- A unique value proposition
It’s worth spending some serious time thinking about each of these items before you commit to a domain name, to be sure that your chosen name and brand identity truly reflect your personality and your focus area.
A few tips to keep in mind when finding your niche and deciding upon your travel blog name:
- Be creative and think outside of the box…but above all, DO NOT copy what someone else has done! This probably goes without saying, but there is only one Adventurous Kate, Wandering Earl, and Nomadic Matt…if your plan is to be the next “Adventurous Anna” or “Wandering Joseph”…just don’t.
- Similarly, don’t just use a variation of a blog name that already exists by adding, removing, or changing one word. That’s one surefire way to guarantee your blog will never stand out among the crowd (and also probably piss some people off).
- Check to make sure the domain name is available. Pretty self-explanatory, eh? But it can be pretty disappointing to be positive that you’ve found THE perfect blog name, only to discover that it’s not even available.
- Check to make sure all social media handles are available. Not only should you make sure they’re available, but you should also go ahead and snag them up! Sure, maybe you have no intention of posting on Instagram right at this moment, but if you change your mind down the road, you’ll be super glad that you already snatched up the username you wanted.
- Choose a name that will grow with you. As a budget traveler from Texas, I could have called my blog something like “The Texas Blonde” or “The Backpacking Blonde.” But what if I move away from Texas? Or suddenly strike it rich and decide to focus on luxury travel (HA – okay universe, let’s make it happen!). The problem with picking a name that’s too narrowly focused is that it can’t grow with you if you change the scope of your blog content down the line.
- Choose a theme that works well with your brand. There aren’t really too many restrictions in this department – if it’s a theme that you like, it’ll probably be just fine. But be wary of any disconnect that could occur between the visuals of your webpage and the rest of your brand. For instance, if your blog is all about being a bad-ass biker chick who rides her motorcycle around the world (um, can that blog exist please?) and your blog theme looks anything like…well, my blog, your audience could be a bit confused about who you really are.
3. Get hosted and lock down your domain name.
This is the part where things can start to feel a little technical and scare some people off, but bear with me a moment. Trust me, as someone who had ZERO experience with building or managing a website before starting this blog, I promise that securing a website host and domain name couldn’t be simpler!
A website host basically just owns the actual web space where your blog will live, and you’re essentially renting it from them. There are all sorts of website hosts out there to choose from, but the one I personally know, trust, and use is Bluehost.
Their hosting services are super affordable, and almost all of the bloggers I know use them since they’re great for everyone from beginners to professionals. You also get a FREE domain name when you create an account with them, which is a nice little bonus.
Once you’re on the Bluehost homepage, go ahead and click on the big green button that says “get started now.”
Next, you’ll be asked to select your plan. I use the basic plan, which is the cheapest of the three options.
If you’re just starting out, I recommending sticking with the basic plan as well, since there’s really no need for the plus or pro plans as a beginner blogger. You can always choose to upgrade later, but it probably won’t be necessary.
Once you’ve chosen your plan, you’re ready to sign up and snag your domain name!
Since you don’t already have a domain, you’ll want to use the box on the left (“new domain”) to enter your new blog name.
Then, it’s time to finalize your package. Here, you’ll have the option to select a 12 month, 24 month, or 36 month hosting plan.
For new bloggers, I personally recommend the 12 month plan. Blogging for a full year and beyond is a bigger commitment than many people realize, and there’s no point in committing to (and paying for!) 3 years of hosting if you’re not even sure you’ll love blogging yet.
Before the 12 months is up, Bluehost will send you an email giving you the option to renew your hosting plan for another 12 months (or however long you choose), so no worries about accidentally losing your website down the road.
I definitely recommend purchasing the optional Domain Privacy Protection. It’s less than a dollar per month, and will prevent total strangers from freely accessing your full name, mailing address, and other confidential information.
After this step, you’ll be asked to input some account information and create a password.
Once you’ve finalized those details with Bluehost, you’re ready to install WordPress and really start working on your blog.
4. Install WordPress (and get ready for it to become your new best friend).
WordPress.org is THE blogging platform you need to be using for your travel blog. There are other options out there, but none compare to the size, scale, ease-of-use, and available user support of WordPress.
(Note: You’ll be using WordPress.org, NOT WordPress.com. The difference is that WordPress.com is a free service for blogs that are NOT hosted through independent hosts like Bluehost, and it is much more limited than WordPress.org)
Bluehost offers one-click WordPress installation, meaning it couldn’t be simpler to get started with WordPress. Go ahead and log in to your Bluehost account with the password you created earlier, and you’ll find yourself on this home screen.
See that button under the “website” tab that says “Install WordPress” in the image above? Go ahead and click on it.
Then, you’ll be taken to this page:
Click on the “Start” button (NOT the “Import” button). On the next page that pops up, select your new domain name from the drop-down and click “Check Domain.”
Once WordPress is installed, you’ll be able to log in to your site and start customizing and adding content. The “scary” tech part is all done, you did it!
The above image is what you’ll see each and every time you log into your website. Typically, the login page is something along the lines of www.mynewtravelblog.com/wp-admin (WordPress will tell you this!).
Once you log in, you’ll be taken to your blog’s dashboard (i.e. the main control center, where you can navigate to various sections to add and edit blog posts, pages, etc).
Congratulations, your blog has officially been created at this point!
WordPress is quite straightforward to use and easy to figure out, but it’s worth spending some time just playing around with it and getting comfortable in the early stages of blogging. After all, WordPress is going to become your new blogging BFF!
5. Make your blog beautiful and unique with a new theme.
Without a theme, your travel blog is going to look…um…not very pretty!
I used a free theme (there are TONS available through WordPress) for my first several months of blogging, but as I began to get more serious about it I eventually upgraded to a theme I purchased on Etsy. The theme I use today on this blog cost me less than $50, which I consider quite a steal because I LOVE it!
If you purchase and download a theme from somewhere other than WordPress, you’ll need to install it on your site. This is super easy and your new theme download should come with a set of simple instructions, but it typically just involves heading to Appearance > Themes on WordPress, and uploading it there.
6. Install some plug-ins
Plug-ins are basically helpful features that you can add to your site to help it run more efficiently, and to make things easier for you. Some plug-ins that I recommend downloading are:
- Akismet: Spam fighting service that protects your site from comment and contact form spam (yes, you WILL get spam comments, even as a newbie blogger!)
- Contact Form 7: Simple contact form that allows people to contact you via email.
- Custom Share Buttons with Floating Sidebar: Adds floating sidebar that makes it easy for people to click and share your posts.
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WP: Automatically inserts the tracking code in every page of your website (this helps you track how many people are visiting your website).
- Yoast SEO: Helps you improve your blog’s search engine rankings.
There will no doubt be more plug-ins you’ll discover and add over the years, but these are a good starting point.
7. Start creating kick-ass content!
At this point, your blog is a blank canvas that’s just waiting to be personalized and developed. Here are some initial steps you should take to help get your blog off the ground:
- I recommend writing a handful of blog posts (maybe around 5) before you start sharing your blog with others. People will be more likely to read and stick around if you already have multiple posts published.
- Create an About Me page to let your readers know who you are, and what your blog is all about.
- Lock down your social media handles. Again, you should go ahead and create a Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat account for your blog, even if you don’t plan to use all of these platforms right away.
- Start building an email list right off the bat. Even if you won’t be sending out any newsletters or other email content for a while, it’s good to have an established list for when you do.
Above all, remember that QUALITY should be the key focus of your blog content, and not QUANTITY.
How frequently I post on this blog varies drastically from month to month, ranging from as little as one post every two weeks, to as frequently as four posts in a week. And you know what? My blog traffic has never once been negatively affected by posting infrequently!
I strive to always write high quality content that provides real value for my readers. In other words, I never publish a post simply because it’s been a while since my last post…I consider that to be “fluff,” and I’m not into that.
1. I don’t travel full time…that means I can’t “make it” as a travel blogger, right? Wrong! There are plenty of successful travel bloggers who don’t travel full time (i.e. they’re not “digital nomads”). I’ve written about this topic several times on this blog, like in this post. Remember, your blog readers likely do not travel 100% of the time either…that’s why they’re coming to you, for tips, inspiration, entertainment, and advice. It can be refreshing for them to follow a blogger who lives a more “normal” lifestyle (like they do), but who still makes time for travel.
2. Can’t I just make a free blog on WordPress.com? Sure, you can…but I don’t recommend it if you think you’ll ever get serious about blogging. I started off with a free WordPress.com blog since I figured travel blogging would remain “just a hobby.” Eventually, I realized that not being able to connect Google Analytics to my site, not being able to advertise on my site, and all of the other restrictions that go along with using a free WordPress.com site were seriously getting in the way of my blog growth. I eventually transferred my hosting from WordPress.com to Bluehost, and while the transition was easy enough, it was still an extra step and hassle I wish I had bypassed.
3. Why do I need to use Bluehost AND WordPress? Think of it this way: Bluehost and WordPress are two separate entities with two separate functions, that come together to create your blog. Bluehost is what allows your blog to actually live on the internet, and WordPess is what allows you to manage your blog on a day-to-day basis. You need to have both parts in order to build and manage your blog.
What questions do you still have about starting a travel blog? Ask them in the comments below, and I’ll start adding to this FAQ list!
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