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I’ve been blogging since 2011. In that time I have personally launched 5 successful travel blogs and also made a number of flops (hint: this site is an example of a flop).
In this article I take a deep dive into the 5 most common mistakes I see travel bloggers making and provide some insight on how to fix them.
Where possible I will use this site to demonstrate some of these mistakes.
Let’s kick off!
1. Too General, Niche Down with a USP!
There must be well over a million travel blogs on the web today. It seems wherever I look I find a travel blogger.
Competition is seriously fierce!
Having a unique selling proposition (USP) is critical.
No longer can you start a ‘general’ travel blog and expect to compete with some of the rock-star bloggers who have refined their craft over the past decade.
The most sustainable way to grow your blog is to niche down! Plant your flag on a topic area that you believe you can dominate. The more specific the better!
It could be a place (e.g. Sicily), an activity (e.g. Hiking In Nepal), a specific experience (e.g. Yoga Retreats), a food type (e.g. Street Food) etc. Define it and niche down.
To get a sense of what I mean by too general, take a look at this site. If you were to browse the site you would realise the content is all over the show. It covers 100s of different destinations and has no specific voice, topic area or sense of purpose.
2. No Domain, Brand Up
If you are clear on your niche, then getting a domain that reflects your niche is key!
A serious rookie mistake that I see many travel bloggers make is getting a domain that they don’t own and hosting on WordPress.com or Blogspot. You know what I mean – mytravelblog.wordpress.com!
If you are serious about building your blog you need to own your domain, ideally make sure that it can be branded and host it yourself. Nowadays there are 100s of hosting companies to choose from and most have very reasonable shared hosting services.
The domain on this site also has brand potential, which is a plus!
3. You’re so 2011, Look the Part
Many travel blogs look really dated. To make it in travel blogging, you are going to have to fake it for a while. And looking the part is critical!
This means getting a site design that is user-friendly, modern and atheistically beautiful.
WordPress.org is by far the best blogging platform to use and the good news is that there all literally hundreds of well-designed WordPress travel blog themes that you can purchase for $50 of less. Marketplaces like Themeforest are rammed with good options.
Alternatively you can get a developer on Upwork or People Per Hour to build you a site or if you are pretty confident on WordPress, I highly recommend using Thrive Themes. They have a plug and play suite of tools that make it really easy to build the site of your dreams!
Need inspiration on how to look the part? Just explore some of the biggest travel blogs and content sites (think Medium) on the web and replicate the key principles that they are using.
What types of headers and footers are they using? What style of posts? What font? Are they using sidebars or long form full-page setups?
This site, for example, uses a premium theme but is still pretty dated. It’s not horrendous, but there is loads of roam for design improvements!
4. SEO Flop, Engagement is Everything
To get found online you will need to have a basic understanding of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Way to many travel bloggers completely ignore SEO. This is a critical mistake.
The good news is that you don’t need to be an SEO wizard to get found. You do however need to get the on-page basics right. Most of these basics you can learn in one day by reading SEO websites or watching a few YouTube videos.
Once you have the basics down then the key is to get awesome at engagement. Engagement is entirely dependent on the quality of your content and the look and feel of your site (i.e. points 1-3 above)
If you are getting good engagement then traffic will naturally grow and you will have a successful site.
This site, for example, has pretty poor engagement. Visitors don’t hang around for long (i.e. they bounce pretty quickly), the site doesn’t getting many natural shares, likes or links; and comments are rare. All of these are signs that the content on the site is not very good.
If your travel blog is not adding HUGE value then you will not win online.
5. Not paying the bills, Get clear on monetisation
Let’s be honest, most travel blogs make next to no money and those that do make money don’t have huge income streams, bar a handful of exceptions.
For the many this is usually because their travel blog adds no real value and therefore they cannot extract any value from their audience.
For those travel blogs that do add value and have engaged audiences, there is often no clear monetisation strategy.
Making money from engaged audiences is a lot easier than most think, but the trick is working out what method of monetisation will earn you proper income (i.e. enough to comfortably live on and have a family).
For example, passive online advertising with Google Adsense or Media.net can earn decent money, but requires huge traffic volumes (more than most travel blogs get).
Instead, direct advertising can be much more profitable but requires good connections and a fair size audience across multiple platforms (i.e. on your blog and social media networks). Being able to package up your offer through a media pack and then pitch to brands and agencies is a key skill and one you will need to learn.
Alternatively, there is lots of money to be made from affiliate marketing and lead generation. The key is to understand your audience’s motives or intent when visiting your site. For example, if you have a site that gets lots of targeted traffic for travellers looking to go to a specific destination then you could partner with a travel operator or local travel service providers to send them leads and earn a commission on sales.
This site for example is not brilliantly monetised, mainly because it doesn’t add huge value and it doesn’t have a significant engaged audience. Nonetheless, It still washes its face through sponsored content, online advertising and limited affiliate marketing.
The trick to monetisation is to first get an engaged audience and then work out the best way to leverage this asset to make money.
Becoming a good travel blogger is really tough. There are so many moving parts and so much competition. To do it well though you need to avoid the common pitfalls.
Take the time to work out what your USP will be and then niche down with hugely detailed and valuable content. Build you site as you would build a brand, that means owning your domain, hosting it yourself and making it look great!
Get the SEO basics right and then focus on engagement!
Finally, once you have an engaged audience, carefully think about how you can extract the most value out of your travel blog.