Start a Blog
This post contains affiliate links.
Updated: January 2019
Travel Blogging has offered up some amazing opportunities for me. It has introduced me to new friends and I’ve connected to thousands of diverse people from all over the world. It’s helped me to not only pay my way through school, but to travel to over 23 countries while doing my PhD.
If you have ever thought about starting your own blog, or wondered how exactly to get started, then this post is for you!
This post breaks down into simple steps how you can get started and includes discounts on the products and tools I personally use and recommend, like hosting through Siteground (though I will get to that later on)!
Related | How I Afford to Travel as a PhD Student
First things first…why take my advice? I mean, there are thousands of bloggers out there.
I may not be the most influential person on instagram, or the biggest name in travel blogging, but what I am is real. My platform always aims for authenticity and that goes for this post as well.
I’m not going to lie to you and paint a rosy picture of travel blogging, just so you will buy a domain through my affiliate link. Despite the image that some bloggers on instagram depict, it’s not all free travel or products. The truth is, travel blogging is a ton of work.
The reality of being a newly established blogger is long, unpaid hours while you get established. With that said, blogging has been incredibly rewarding and has only opened up doors for me … that is why I want to help you get started!
So you still wanna be a travel blogger? Here’s how!
What is your Vision?
Many blogging guides out there will tell you to ‘find your niche’ or ‘establish your brand’.
Sorry, but what the F does that even mean? It legit took me years to understand this jargon mumbo-jumbo, so I’ve broke it down for you in the following categories.
1. Find your Niche
Since you are here on my travel blog, reading how to start your own blog, I’m going to take a wild guess that your niche will be travel. Your niche is basically like your sub-category of travel…if you had to describe your blog in one or two words, what is it about? Mine’s solo female travel.
Unfortunately for a newbie starting out in the travel blogging industry, the reality is that there are THOUSANDS of other travel blogs out there. In order to stand a chance of being found on google, you need a more specific focus than just travel.
Take some time to consider how you will stand out in the online world of travel. Are you a solo female adventure traveller like me, who travels the world on a budget with a backpack? Maybe what will help you stand out is your home-base, and therefore your expert knowledge of a specific city or state or country. Your niche could be luxury travel, outdoor travel (focusing on hiking or trekking), travel fashion, sustainable or ethical travel, vegan travel, travel with kids, travel with a disability, travel and mental health, slow travel, van life, student travel…the list goes on.
My point is this: you are unique and have your own story to tell, so choose a niche that will help you do that.
2. What does your blog stand for?
Consider what travel means to you. What are the things about travel that make you feel alive? What topics are you most passionate about?
These are the things you need to focus on! When I first started out, I made the mistake of just doing what I thought was marketable..what I saw successful bloggers doing. Yes it is important to be aware of what works, but what is also integral in those successful bloggers standing out was them doing them…their own unique spin on blogging and traveling. This is what has helped me stand out and be memorable to brands.
When I started to write more narrative, story-telling pieces on my website, I was met with such a positive response because I was doing what I do best: writing (not cranking out copy-cat listacles or itineraries). My writing has gone on to be featured in magazines and other online publications, and one of my stories was even published in a book last year!
I urge you to not focus so much on what other people are doing and let your authentic voice shine. That is what will draw people to you!
3. What will you offer your readers?
Most people use the internet to answer a question. When it comes to travel, people seek blogs for the same reason. In fact, bloggers are often more trustworthy than large organizations or companies because at the end of the day, I’m just a fellow traveller sharing information. Use this to your advantage and consider what questions people are asking, and how you will help answer them.
This is where your expertise comes in! What can you uniquely offer your future readers? Will you help people plan a trip (like my African border series)? Will you help them learn how to travel on the cheap, or find hidden gems? Or will your blog be more about the art of story telling, highlighting a destination through writing and photography?
Be creative! How can your unique perspectives contribute to what is already out there? Or even better, find topics that aren’t already out there!
4. Build your vision based on the above
You’ve probably already heard about the importance of establishing “your brand”…what the heck does that even mean? …and do you need a brand?
Well, if you are starting a blog with a potential future business in mind, then yes — establishing a brand is important.
But basically all it means is having a consistent vision.
Think of your Mom or a Grandparent who might not be as tech-saavy as you or I. Could your Mom describe to a friend what your blog is all about in a nutshell?
Does your domain name accurately depict what you stand for? My brand (The Pink Backpack) is based on a metaphor for female adventure travel. Ironically, I eventually acquired a pink backpack so you might notice that I hone in on the backpack and the colour pink in both my photography and in the design of my website to visually reinforce my branding.
My content is cohesive with this branding as it is created from the lens of an adventurous solo female traveller who quite literally backpacks around the world with a pink backpack.
Choose a Blogging Platform
Once you have a vision for your website, your first major decision will be choosing a blogging platform. I use WordPress as my platform of choice and get my website hosted via Siteground.
There are a variety of platform options out there such as Weebly, Wix and WordPress. The first two are notable for their ‘drag and drop’ functions, which are user friendly but extremely limited in their customizability. In comparison, WordPress has a slight learning curve if you have never done any web design before, but it is totally do-able and there are tons of youtube tutorials out there!
I would recommend WordPress to anyone due to its customizability. For example, after about a year of blogging I hired a web designer to create a website for me based on my vision. He was able to code a custom theme for me from the ground up because I was using WordPress. If you are familiar with coding or want to learn how to code, you could even build your own theme using WordPress.
Before you make any decisions, I would recommend thinking about the direction you want your blog to go in the future. Will blogging be a hobby for you, or do you want your website to grow? Can you envision making money from your blog? Essentially, if you are thinking longevity then WordPress is for you!
Find a Host and Buy a Domain name
Your second decision will be whether to pay for a hosting platform, or get a free platform.
So what is the difference?
A paid platform means you will be purchasing a domain name (example: www.___________.com) through a hosting company and then paying that host for that space on the internet. Again, I use Siteground so I am essentially paying them to rent a secure space on the internet for my website.
With this option, you own the rights to your website. This is important to consider.
A free platform does not require you to purchase a domain name, so the link to your website would still have the platform’s branding (example. www. ___________.wordpress.com). Without the domain purchase, you won’t own your website which means the intellectual rights to your content is less secure. It also can inhibit professional growth if you do eventually want to collaborate with other creatives or brands.
I used and promoted iPage for years but recently switched to Siteground.
In the spirit of transparency, my website was hacked and subsequently shut down for a week by iPage (without any red flags or warnings raised by iPage). I was disappointed that they simply just locked it down and I struggled to get assistance to move forward to a solution. They outsource their customer service to an external company which sells and fiercely promotes their own products, so their only solution was for me to purchase enhanced security for thousands of dollars (likely earning that associate a good chunk of change in commission). It felt like my site was being held hostage and I was not pleased with how the situation unfolded. Following this, months of hard work in rankings with Google fell. I want to be 100% open about this incase case you previously read this post and noticed a switch in the company I now recommend, or in case you are simply doing research on which host to select.
Since switching to Siteground, I have experienced only good things. They migrated my website over with ease and assisted me to correct issues with link redirects. Their online chat is a superb and useful service that actually connects you to tech assistance which will send you updates via email.
Plus, they are super affordable! For just $3.95, you can purchase your hosting AND wordpress plan (and snatch up a FREE domain for the first year with their current promotion).
Note: A domain is regularly 10-15$ per year so expect this to be billed to your credit card on file once your first year is over (FYI: they are really good about emailing you reminders about billing dates, so in the case that you did want to cancel after the first year, you can simply log in prior to the billing date and cancel, or call them and cancel).
Customizing your Website
Let’s assume you have chosen to move forward with Siteground as your host and WordPress as your platform with the $3.95/month plan.
Once you register, you can easily launch your WordPress admin dashboard (the backend of your site) through Siteground. Simply go to ‘My Accounts’ and click the green ‘Go to Admin Panel’ button.
Conversely, you can access your site through the admin log-in page (which you can find at www.______.com/wp-admin).
You will find along the left side of your dashboard, the ‘Appearance‘ menu; click ‘Themes‘ and browse from thousands of freebies.
Once you choose the theme you think will be the best fit for your vision, click ‘Activate‘.
Return to the ‘Appearance‘ menu on the side bar of your dashboard and click ‘Customize‘. Here you will be able to tweak the theme by changing the font style and colour, menus, side bar widgets and more! (Note: the flexibility of modifications varies theme by theme).
You can add photos to your blog through the ‘Media‘ tab.
Resources I Use
Once you have your blog up and running, you might want to consider the following blogging tools to help you get going! I personally use:
- Adobe Creative – For those who use photography or video, Adobe Creative offers monthly memberships to their products. You can also purchase the software outright if you want lifetime access. I personally use Adobe Lightroom.
- Amazon Prime – Did you know that with Amazon Prime, you get free access to Amazon photos storage? Plus free shipping for whatever blog related products you order and free access to Amazon read to get you feeling inspired. Use my link for 30 days free, OR if you are a student get 6 months free.
- Tailwind – Pinterest is my largest source of web traffic and I use Tailwind to schedule and optimize my Pinterest account. Sign up with my link and get one month free!
- TransferWise – TransferWise is a great alternative to Paypal and you will definitely need an option to send and receive money if you start to earn income from your blog. Sign up with my link and get a free international transfer!
Welcome to the club my friend!
I look forward to following your adventures in travel blogging!
Like it? | SHARE or PIN!
Pssst…this post contains affiliate links.
If you purchase a product through one of my links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.
This goes towards the cost of maintaining this ad-free website and creating free content for readers like you!
Please read my disclosure for more info.
Thanks for your support.