How To Start A Travel Blog: The Best Step By Step Guide To Be Successful In 2018
So you are a couple, and you are wondering how to start a travel blog?
Or maybe you are a solo traveller and are curious how we started our travel blog and what is involved?
Well, you have come to the right place, just three years me and Sabina were walking on a beach just before sunset in El Nido in the Philippines and Steve said:
Wait a minute we travel so much why don’t we start a travel blog!?
No actually lets start a travel blog as a couple, a couple travel blog!!!
Which at the time three years ago there actually wasn’t too many. Keep in mind this was in 2015!
Needless to say, starting a travel blog was one of the best decisions we have ever made!
It has allowed us to not only continue our travels around the world but also to help so many people who have moved to Australia and Canada as we did!
It was on that very beach in El Nido the sun was setting, and I looked at Sabina and said something along the lines of
Sunset Travellers!!! … That’s what we will call it!!!
Sabina looking very confused and clearly thinking I had too many beers said:
What are you talking about Steve?
The couple travel blog! Lets name it Sunsettravellers.com hopefully that domain is still available!
We rushed home in a tuk-tuk taxi and registered the domain on May 2015 via Godaddy.
So without you realising I have just taught you the first and most crucial step on how to start a travel blog:
Step 1: Pick a damn good domain name.
We were super lucky that our domain name SunsetTravellers.com was available. In most cases when you are brainstorming a domain name, you will check if its available and bam someone else has registered it.
I used Godaddy for checking if domain names are available its fast and free to search you just type a name in and it tells you like magic if its already registered.
Some essential info about picking your domain name:
- Please oh please stick to a .com extension. Don’t be swayed by .info, .rocks and whatever else ridiculous extensions there are these days. The Dot Com extension is a brand in and of itself.
- Avoid weird dash’s or hyphens. Can you imagine meeting us on a beach and me telling you about my fantastic travel blog Sunset Travellers? Okay cool, you might say “so the website is just sunsettravellers.com? No ugh, it’s sunset dash travellers. That is just one example but trust me over time it will become so frustrating.
- Don’t use dates or your age and think long term. So you say aw yea we are in our 20’s let’s call it two20coolcoupletravelblog.com. When you are thinking about your domain name keep the long-term view in, eventually, you will turn 30 and have to explain to everyone why you called it two20coolcoupletravelblog.com(please don’t buy this domain haha)
- Stick to one or two words. You see that ridiculous domain name up there. For best practices, one or two words are best. Most couple travel blogs have one or two words. NomadicMatt.com, Expertvegabond.com, sunsettravellers.com. This does make finding your original domain name harder of course but doesn’t worry inspiration will come. Check out our list of 25 and 35 couple travel bloggers to follow.
- Think about social media – You might have found the most epic domain name ever until you go to Instagram and realise someone already has that handle. We were lucky that on the majority of platforms @SunsetTravellers was available. Except for Twitter where we had to get @TravelSunset. So it is not the end of the world if they are not all available but have a look and check. An easy, quick way is just by going to for example Facebook.com/sunsettravellers or instagram.com/sunsettravellers. Obviously, replace sunsettravellers with yourawesomedomainname.
- Go and register your everything! While I recommend searching on Godaddy for the perfect domain name, starting out, I would just go to BlueHost, and you can get your domain and hosting all in the one place. Plus they give you a free domain!
- Yes if unfortunately if you want to start a travel blog, you have to pay money. A lot of people don’t realise there are costs involved in starting a travel blog. Do not whatever you do go for one of those free WordPress websites, you will only regret in a few months. The difference being free WordPress is yourawesomedomainname.wordpress.com or youraweseomedomainname.com. Plus a whole host of things you can’t do on a self-hosted website.
How much does it cost to start a travel blog?
Well, the good thing is if you are a couple reading this then technically the costs are halved. But it has to be registered in one person name, i.e. Amazing Steve.
I highly recommend paying for one year up front. There is nothing worse than doing it monthly you realistically won’t make enough to cover the costs of your travel blog in the first year, so you don’t want that monthly payment hanging over you every month!
Plus with Bluehost, if you go for a 12 – 60 month(yes 60 haha) they give you crazy savings.
Even there the middle package which I would recommend works out just under $100 for the year including a domain name.
Some things to keep in mind about hosting when you start a travel blog:
- The first year will be half the price of the renewals next year. They do this to get you onboard, so if you can pick the 24-month option then you don’t really have to worry for two years! Which is a long time in the travel blog world?
- They will try and upsell you – You realistically don’t need half of the extra stuff they offer, but some things like https(SSL) can be great to start off with. As you can see we are still HTTP so will be purchasing an SSL later on. This just adds an extra layer of security to your website, and Google has said that they are putting a higher rank to those that have it versus those that don’t.
- Just register and do it. Getting your domain name and hosting is just step one. Get it over with pick a host and get yourself set up for the next 12 – 24 months.
- Register with our link here, and we get a small commision for referring you at no additional cost to you. More on how to make money on your travel blog later.
Step 2: Install WordPress, theme and plugins.
So you’ve popped open the champagne celebrating your purchase and talking about how you are going to make sooo much money travelling the world! Great :)
Now comes step 2 the beloved WordPress
Seriously WordPress is absolutely incredible it is what I am writing this very post on. You get an excellent theme and writing a blog post is as easy as writing a word document.
The great thing with WordPress is if you are ever not sure about something you literally just Google your problem and 99.999% of the time someone else has had the same problem and you can find the solution.
Even after blogging for years I still Google my problems away.
Follow the steps in Bluehost they make it super easy to get set up.
An excellent URL to remember is yourawesomedomain.com/wp-admin
That little /wp-admin brings you to your login page where you can get into the backend and publish posts, edit your site etc.
Okay your into WordPress and are thinking great now what!?
Pick a WordPress theme for your travel blog:
Every single WordPress blog on the internet has a theme behind them. The majority are free, and some are premium(meaning you pay a fee to “purchase the theme”).
Do you need a premium theme? Nope! This website is just a basic theme, and it does the job.
Will your website look better with a premium theme? Yes
But it’s an extra cost, and we have had hundreds of thousands of website visitors to our simple blog, and we don’t see anyone complaining.
We probably will move to a premium theme at some stage, so, for now, I will leave this up to you.
Really in the first year of starting a travel blog, I recommend just doing that.
Many people spend days to weeks looking for that perfect theme while they could have put out some epic content and gotten one step closer to paying for your travels.
A premium WordPress theme can cost around $25 – $100+ depending on where you look. Again Google is your friend.
Google “Premium WordPress themes for travel blogs” and you will have no shortage of ideas.
If you are doing this as a couple expect many arguments generally around the theme of Oh my god, I found the perfect theme
Just pick one and be done with it, for now, is our advice.
Install WordPress plugins on your new travel blog:
Plugins are like apps for your website, sorry I mean travel blog. The other incredible aspect with WordPress is you can add plugins to your website which help you do things like optimising your site for Google, backup your website, add Facebook comments and anything extra that your theme cannot do.
A word of warning about WordPress plugins
- Each time you add a plugin, it slows down how fast your website loads
- Updating too many plugins at once can cause your website to freeze and break, and you have to call customer support or Google the problem once again.
- Be sure to install trustworthy plugins. Just like themes, there are a gazillion WordPress plugins. Anyone can make one, and some suck!
- Always look at the last time it was updated, how many installs it has and what the reviews are.
- For your convenience, I will list all of our plugins we use and of course why we have them below.
WordPress plugins we use on Sunset Travellers and why we use them on our travel blog:
When you start a travel blog, you will eventually need to add plugins.
Plugins are basically add-ons to your website.
Below are all of the plugins we use and I have given a brief explanation of why we use them.
Remember when you start a travel blog only install plugins that you actually need.
Right now we probably have too many, but hey we need them so not much we can do. To find any of these just go to Plugins -> Add New and type the name in the “Search Plugins” box.
- Accelerate Mobile Pages by Ahmed Kaludi – Also known as AMP this converts your regular blog posts into really fast loading pages for those searching on mobile. It really helps with our Google rankings, so it is a good plugin to have. If you want to see an example of this check out this article’s AMP version at SunsetTravellers.com/how-to-start-a-travel-blog/amp.
- Akismet Anti-Spam by Automattic – Be prepared for loads of spam comments on your blog. We don’t really need this anymore as we use a Facebook comments plugin. In fact, we don’t need this anymore, so I am going to deactivate it right now haha.
- Better WordPress Minify by Khang Minh – Allows you to minify your CSS and JS files for faster page loading for visitors. This plugin uses the PHP library Minify and relies on WordPress’s enqueueing system rather than the output buffer (will not break your website in most cases). This plugin is very customizable and easy to use.
- Contact Form 7 by Takayuki Miyoshi(notice a trend with these guys names lol?) – People might want to contact you on your blogs such as advertisers, other bloggers, people who wish to thank you and giant tour companies who give you free trips. Check out ours and say “hi Steve your article was amaaaazzzing.”
- Facebook Comments Plugin by talspotim – As I was saying the majority of people come to our site from either Google or Facebook, so we made it simple for them to comment with their Facebook account. I think it looks a bit more legit than some of those other comment plugins, but it is up to you.
- Footer Putter by Russell Jamieson – Put a footer on your site that boosts your credibility with both search engines and human visitors(literally copied and pasted from the plugin page haha).
- Google XML Sitemaps by Arne Brachhold – Not 100% sure if this makes much difference to our rankings, but it uses sitemaps for best indexation by search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and others. See our at http://sunsettravellers.com/sitemap.xml only a search engine would find that pretty.
Jetpack by WordPress.com by Automattic – A Handy tool I mostly use it for the site stats tool which is excellent for tracking any referrals and search traffic.
- LeadPages connector by Leadpages – Leadpages is not a free service, in fact, it is pretty damn expensive, but I said I would let you know for down the line. Basically, it helps you make impressive landing pages for anything you can imagine. See my moving to Australia and moving to Canada ebook pages. Great tool but not recommended for day 1 when you start a travel blog.
- Popular Posts Tabbed Widget for Jetpack by Ryann Micua – Shows your top or popular posts on your travel blog. This is what ours looks like on the sidebar; you don’t have to display views:
- Pretty Link by Blair Williams – If there was one plugin I couldn’t live without it is this! The main use is it makes your affiliate links or any link for that matter look pretty. So, for example, my Airbnb referral link is www.airbnb.com/c/spalmer230, but pretty link lets you create anything you like. So, in this case, it is sunsettravellers.com/airbnb. Much easier to remember and looks a zillion times better.
- SumoMe by SumoMe – This would be my second most favourite plugin. All those lovely sharing buttons you see on our website are from SumeMe. They have a bunch of other really useful tools as well. Install this!
- UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore by UpdraftPlus.Com, David Anderson- Our hosting service provides a 30 day back up but this is mainly a back up of the backup. If it ever does happen to you, you will be glad you backed up your site.
- Wordfence Security by Wordfence – Another must have plugin. Hackers are always looking for vulnerabilities on your site this just adds some extra protection and stops the majority of hacks.
- WP-Insert Code by AntonAKH – Just makes it easy to copy and paste on our website. You can do it via the editor, but this is just a lazy way of doing it.
- Yoast SEO by Team Yoast- The best damn SEO plugin out there. Simple and it is free!
That all folks! Those are all of the plugins we use on our site. We probably could cut a few, but everything is working in harmony now.
Okay so now you have your website, theme and plugins sorted whats the next step on how to start a travel blog?
Step 3: Start writing your first blog post
You still need to get a logo but for now why not start writing that first post on your new travel blog.
Trust me in one year you will look back at those first posts and cringe, but still, you have to start somewhere.
Many people put this off for weeks even months, the best advice I can give you is just hit publish the world will not care if it sucks or not.
I am not going to go into too much detail here about what you should write about, how long the posts should be or what your first post should be about. Just write :)
Useful tools you can use when you start a travel blog:
These tools are not in WordPress itself but have become essential to our day to day blogging.
- Grammarly – We have the premium version, but the free one is just as good! The best spell checker in the world, seriously.
- Fiverr – See our pretty logo on the screen top of this article. We ordered a gig on Fiverr, and they made it for only $25! Really amazing what you can get on there.
- TinyPNG – Again we have the premium version, but the free is just as good. Every image you upload to your website will slow down the load time. So it makes sense that you optimise your images to make your website load as fast as possible. Just drag and drop the image, its simple!
- Fireshot Add-on for Google Chrome – Lets you grab screenshots from your browser. That is where the majority of the images in this article came from. It is Google Cadd-on.
- Pixabay – Do not just take images from Google search! You can easily get sued for copyright infringement. Instead just have a search on Pixabay literally gives your loads of images that you can do whatever you want with.
- CoSchedule Headline Analyzer – You don’t want those headlines to suck, and this helps :)
- Adobe Spark – The best image creator tool out there with the exception of Canva. Majority of featured images on this site are made with Spark
- Beacon – Helped us make both our moving to Australia ebook and moving to Canada ebook
Leadpages – Mentioned this earlier, it is the best landing page creator out there but also one of the most expensive lol.
- Bluehost – Our recommended go-to for when you are ready to start a travel blog.
- Facebook text overlay tool – You don’t want too much text on your featured image as Facebook “punishes you” by showing it to fewer people so just drag and drop your featured image onto this. They say it is just for adverts but trust me we have experimented and it has made a BIG difference.
- Facebook Debugger – If you are making an image with text in it as your featured image sometimes you can sometimes mess up with the positioning, and it can look super weird when you share it on social media. This helps you refresh the image that Facebook stores when you first share it. Just remember to change the featured image in your article.
- Google Analytics – Use this for tracking website visitors and everything else. It is essential and its free yay.
- Aweber – An email list is essential for growing your travel blog. We use Aweber, and it is well worth the money
- Gmail for business – Sure you can use a free Gmail account but if you want to be taken seriously register for this and you can have YourName@yourawesomedomainname.com. It does set you back $5 a month though but worth it.
There are more tools that you can use when you start your travel blog, but the above are the main ones.
Final words of wisdom on how to start a travel blog:
Okay if you got to the end of this 3495-word blog post and are jumping up and down in excitement then good for you!
Starting a travel blog is not the hardest thing you will do, in fact, it is actually super easy with Bluehost but what is not easy is the next part.
Building your audience
This is the most important and time-consuming aspect of any travel blog. You have to spend a lot of time creating amazing content building your social presence etc.
Basically what I am saying is it is not easy. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and it really will be a long time until you even make a profit.
But stick with it! Most people quit just before their blog reaches the next level.
Right now we are travelling the world making a full time living from our travel blog, but it probably took three years and lots of dedication on our part.
Remember this even we started with picking a domain name, picking a theme, registering our Facebook page and everything else you will be doing when you start your travel blog.
We had two Facebook likes, 0 website visitors on day one as well but keep at it and you will break through!
I really hope this guide on how to start a travel blog has given you some insight into what is involved.
If it has, please leave a comment below and let me know! :) We might even feature you in our next couple travel blog round-up blog post.
All the best,
Steve And Sabina(who made me write this blog post haha)
P.S Even if you don’t plan to start a travel blog right now Bookmark This Article for later.