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So You Want To Start a Travel Blog?

starting a blog, travel blog sites, how to become a travel blogger

The Shooting Star has recently made it to the top 30 travel blogs in India (based on global Alexa rankings). While I still have a long way to go to reach the level of the world’s top travel bloggers, this post is an attempt to share my experiences and experiments so far.

 Many of you have asked me on Twitter and via email, as to how you can go about starting your own travel blog and what it entails, and this post is something of an apology to those unanswered questions! I started my travel blogging journey in May 2011, before which my blog was a platform to rant about life and share the occasional travel tales. I must also confess that I started (and dropped) 5 blogs before The Shooting Star, each after a few posts, when I faced the writer’s block. That is perhaps the greatest challenge of starting out as a blogger, travel or otherwise – you might receive little or no traffic in the initial days, and a lot of efforts may feel like they are going unnoticed. If you can stick it out during this time, you’ve won half the battle.

1.Travel.

Tabernas Spain, Spain desert, Spain photos

While hiking along the only desert of Europe.

By the time I decided to focus seriously on travel blogging, I had already travelled in most of Southeast Asia, and was setting out on a two-month sabbatical from work, to Europe and Spiti. Having travelled to places seldom blogged about before, I was genuinely inspired to share my experiences and explorations on the blogosphere.

Before you decide to start your own travel blog, ask yourself why you’re doing it. If it is to make quick money or score sponsorships, you’d be better off looking elsewhere. Travel blogging is hard work and will earn you nothing, atleast in the first few years; you need to feel passionately for both travelling and blogging to create a successful travel blog.

Ask yourself also if you’ve travelled to enough places, and have enough experiences to write about. Do you have enough pictures from these places? Or will you be writing about experiences that you can easily find creative commons pictures for? Perhaps the best advice I’ve ever been given is, “travel for the love of travel while you still can, because once you become a successful travel blogger, travelling will never be the same again.”

2. Pick a niche.

Rodrigues island, Ile Rodrigues, Rodrigues Mauritius

Along roads less travelled, at Rodrigues Island.

Once you’re convinced that you have enough fodder to write about, start asking yourself what’s a niche you should focus on. There are plenty of generic travel blogs out there; can you offer something unique? You could consider focussing on luxury travel, responsible travel, offbeat travel, culture-inspired travel, budget travel or something more creative.

Personally, I started out without a well-defined niche, and took a while to reach my current focus on offbeat and experiential travel. The idea is really to attract and captivate your audience, by setting their expectations about what they can read by following you.

3. Select a blogging platform.

travel blog sites, how to start a blog

WordPress and Blogger / Blogspot are the biggest free blogging platforms out there, and it’s largely a matter of personal preference to pick one. Having used both, I personally recommend WordPress.com, for its user-friendliness, beautiful themes, professional templates, degree of flexibility, and SEO potential.

One reason why people choose Blogger over WordPress, is that the latter does not allow advertising with Google Adsense (though it has recently introduced its own, albeit less efficient, version of ads called WordAds). To be honest, I don’t know many people who make much money through advertising on their blog, and if advertising revenue is your end goal, you shouldn’t be starting a travel blog anyway!

Many amateur bloggers tend to start out by investing in a self-hosted website, but unless you’re a techie clued in to the ways of Google, I wouldn’t recommend doing this. You need to be focussing all your energy on generating good travel content, and let the technicalities take care of themselves. Not to forget, the added pressure to succeed after having invested in a website and its optimization.

4. Set a posting goal.

how to start blogging, how to create a blog

Photo by Johan Larsson.

Commitment to your travel blog is the single most important thing. You might be starting a travel blog with a long term goal in mind – to break into travel writing, or to establish yourself as a credible blogger that travel companies might be interested in working with – but in the initial stages, set goals for the smaller picture.

Most importantly, decide how often you are going to post content on your blog, and stick to this frequency. I personally recommend posting one well-written, engaging post once a week, rather than several low-quality posts several times a week.

5. Use pictures.

Bhap Rajasthan, Bhap village

Having fun with photos, at Bhap village in Rajasthan.

When I first started travel blogging, I was only interested in sharing my experiences in words. Over time, I learnt that people first get drawn to the pictures you share, and for many, that’s where their attention span ends. It’s just something that we, as bloggers, have to learn to make peace with.

You don’t have to invest in a fancy camera if you’re not a photography buff. I use a humble Sony Cybershot (digital) camera, and try to look for moments that not many people would capture. Recently, an international publication has approached me about commissioning a photo essay, proof that what you capture is much more important than the equipment you use to capture it.

If you find yourself writing about something abstract, or if your own pictures don’t do justice to the experience you’re sharing, search Flickr Creative Commons to find pictures you can use – pictures under the Attribution license only need a simple credit back to the photographer. Remember not to lift pictures from blogs or website without permission, as you’ll only harm your own credibility.

6. Interact with other bloggers.

travel bloggers Indian, India travel blogs

With travel blogger Mariellen, from Canada, at the Delhi Travel Massive. Photo via SoDelhi.

The blogosphere is an awesome community of people. Once you’ve started (or started thinking about) your own travel blog, you need to get out there and start reading and interacting with other bloggers. A great way to make your presence known is to leave comments on other blogs; you can give feedback on their posts, answer questions they maybe asking, or share your own experiences from a place they’ve written about.

Make sure that you use your blog profile while commenting, so it links the bloggers and other commenters back to your blog. Gradually, you’ll also realize the value of each comment posted on your blog; you’ll realize just how disheartening it is to put your heart and soul into a post and not receive any comments from your readers! Make an effort to reply to all comments on your own blog, so as to ensure that your readers know that you value them.

7. Get active on social networks.

Twitter

Facebook and Twitter are excellent ways to join the existing community of travel bloggers, as well as generate traffic to your own blog (they are the second biggest sources of traffic to my blog after Google). Grow your social networks, especially Twitter, and establish yourself as a credible voice in your selected niche of travel blogging. Remember that more important than sharing links is engaging with existing influencers.

Every Tuesday at 3:30 pm IST, you can join the #TTOT (Travel Talk on Twitter) chat, and interact with fellow travel enthusiasts and travel bloggers; it is not only a great source of new travel ideas, but also helps keep you motivated about travelling and blogging. Similarly, you can join fan pages of travel bloggers you like to read and existing travel blogging groups, and start understanding how these platforms are best used.

8. Start search engine optimization.

google

SEO is the holy grail of blog traffic. The idea is to create visibility for your blog on Google; for instance, if you’re writing about street food in India, your blog should appear on the first page of Google when people search for that or something similar. Challenging as it sounds,  blogging platforms like WordPress or Google ensure that the technicalities are taken care of on the back end. All you have to ensure is that your blog posts and photographs are tagged with relevant keywords that people might be searching for.

9. Value your blog.

travel blog sites, how to start a travel blog

Photo by Mike Licht.

Something that I personally feel is an issue with many Indian bloggers, is that we don’t value our blog and our content enough. We accept unbelievably low rates for advertising and sponsored posts; a “something is better than nothing” kind of attitude. It is important for advertisers and sponsors to understand that blogging is hard work, and if we, as bloggers, don’t convey that, we’ll always remain poor!

10. Have fun!

create a travel blog, best travel blogs

Photo by Pedro Ribeiro Simões.

If you start a travel blog purely with the intention of making money or scoring free travel opportunities, chances are you’ll get burnt out soon enough. Ask any travel blogger and they’ll tell you that blogging is hard work; you will be spending a lot of time and effort in the initial years, and the money or sponsored travels might not come until much later. Something common across most travel bloggers (myself included) is that they are absolutely obsessed with their blogs, and absolutely love blogging about their travels, returns or no returns. So if travel blogging is something you think you’ll really love to do, get out there, travel, write, and have fun. The blogosphere is a wonderful place to be!

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Do you have any other tips or questions for starting a new travel blog?

===

Also read:
Confessions of an Indian Travel Blogger

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For more travel stories and tips, join The Shooting Star on Facebook & Twitter.

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70 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nice articles. Great tips and some of tips are general and useful to start any type of blogs.

    February 24, 2013
    • Thanks Hemant, and you’re right, most of the tips are applicable to any new blogs!

      February 24, 2013
  2. Nice article Shivya. Thanks for sharing
    I could find few points very relevant to what I have faced and facing even now while writing online.
    After failing to write regularly on many sites, i think its time to develop a niche and stick to it passionately. Great tip :)

    February 24, 2013
    • Thanks Abhishek. Having been through that phase of not being able to write regularly on the blogs I had started earlier, I can say it’s worth it when you finally make the commitment!

      February 24, 2013
  3. Thank you very much for these great tips – I’ll be sure to use them on my travel blog!

    February 24, 2013
    • I’m glad you found them useful, Deborah!

      February 24, 2013
  4. Good tips for a beginning blogger.

    My advice: Set high expectations for yourself and your blog, be a voracious learner – especially on business, don’t be afraid to go against the grain, and don’t let anyone tell you what can’t be done!

    February 24, 2013
    • Agreed! Especially the high expectation bit, got to aim for the stars :)

      February 25, 2013
  5. Great stuff…and I couldn’t agree more on your advice about the initial period. Needs a lot of motivation, but that’s only until the right audience comes along and finds you.
    Congrats on becoming top 30… I am so not surprised! Way to go :)

    February 24, 2013
    • Fair enough, the right audience can make all the effort seem worth it.

      February 25, 2013
  6. Hi Shivya, Thanks for including me in your post! That was a fun night at Delhi Travel Massive :)

    February 24, 2013
    • It certainly was. Hope to see you back in India soon :)

      February 25, 2013
  7. Hey Shivya, great article! I have to say – Pick a niche is very important, I didnt do it yet but I can see how it would improve my blog and traveling. Btw I wrote similar article on how to monetize traveling ( http://www.girlstriptips.com/1/post/2013/01/how-to-monetize-your-traveling-and-any-other-hobby-for-that-matter.html ) hope you will like it :-)

    February 24, 2013
    • Thanks for sharing this, Martina! Some great tips there; I’ve bookmarked it for future reference :)

      February 25, 2013
  8. Great tips! The hardest thing for me is picking a niche. I guess I will get there eventually :)

    February 25, 2013
    • Thanks Bonnie. As long as your content is engaging anyway, you can take your time to get there!

      February 25, 2013
  9. Jenny #

    The post is very inspiring. I like to travel, but not so much that I would leave my job, but it would be nice to capture those travels on the page. And yes, if you are writing something so that you get popular or earn some money, then the motive is lost there, and I guess it kind of shows on the blog. The twitter handle tip is the best, and now I am off to check the best 30 travel blogs :-)

    February 25, 2013
    • Glad you found it informative, Jenny! Send me a link when do get started :)

      February 25, 2013
  10. Thanks for sharing these tips Shivya! As simple as they might seem they really are helpful! How did you eventually hone in on your niche or your target audience? I’m having a hard time limiting what I want to write about-my interests are many!

    February 25, 2013
  11. Thanks Shivya for the reference right at the top! Appreciate it.
    Great tips I must say. Adding my 2 two paisas:

    1. Even if you dont host the blog yourself, you absolutely must map your domain to your hosted account. You need to build a brand.That would be Rs 700 per year for wordpress. http://en.support.wordpress.com/domains/

    2. One needs to do a lot on SEO apart from the tags. For wordspress, Yoast seo plugin is the best and is not difficult for non techies. Just a couple of youtube videos would help you get on.

    February 25, 2013
  12. Very good post! Most tips go for starting out ‘anything’, not only a travel blog. The most important thing probably is to ask yourself – ‘What is it I would do for free?’ and then in the phase that you are indeed doing it for free, test your resolve :)

    February 25, 2013
  13. First, congratulations on being in the list of top 5 travel bloggers in India. Commendable! And this piece is amazing, pure pro tips.

    February 25, 2013
  14. Great compilation of tips for travel bloggers :)

    February 25, 2013
  15. My3 #

    As somebody who has no interest in starting a blog but loves looking at blogs, let me give you my two cents (I have been living in the US for almost 24 years now). Yes, when I type in a town or vacation spot, I come across many blogs. BUT if the blog is all about what a wonderful time they had and a ton of pictures with no information on what they ate, where they stayed, how much things cost, how far is it from the various attractions, I have no further interest in that blog and even if they change it in the future, I will not be clicking on that blog. If you are writing for your friends put pictures and don’t bother with details. If you want me, somebody who is looking for information and want to come back, put in the details that attracted you to that place. We will then post it on our FB walls and Tweet about THE blog to go to before traveling :-).

    February 25, 2013
    • well said. how to travel blog in one comment :)

      Thought the above tips are great and valuable I don’t know of anyone who made it big by following a how to lists by an already expert in the field.

      They somehow got the hang of it. Through lots of hard work and persistence. And passion of course.

      February 25, 2013
      • Agreed Benjamin, just hoping that this can be a resource when someone feels unsure of where they are heading. The passion, of course, is the biggest driver for a good blog!

        February 25, 2013
    • I’ve been guilty of sharing only stories / experiences, often without much practical information. Shall keep you point in view from hereon. Thanks for sharing it here!

      February 25, 2013
      • Arati #

        i do look out for information on blogs, shivya, but in your support, i do read blogs which mention how someone felt when they visited a certain place. i am also interested in “what to experience” than jusy “what to see”. i dont care if there is no practical information, but if it gives me a different insight about places, i m a repeated visitor :)

        March 13, 2013
  16. Very useful tips to me as well as all travel bloggers. This is ” Set a posting goal” is very much important for all. Thanks for nice descriptions.

    February 25, 2013
    • Glad you found them useful!

      February 25, 2013
  17. Congrats for reaching top 30 milestone. I believe you will be targeting higher :).

    There could have been no better time for me to read this post. After putting lot of hard work in last 2-3 months in my travel blog , had started feeling a bit disappointed by the response. But morale is boosted up again :).

    February 25, 2013
  18. Point 9 is what I have been trying to put across to many fellow bloggers, do not sell yourself short, value your work.

    February 26, 2013
  19. Also the frequency of writing. I write 5-6 posts in a month and that itself is exhausting, with travel, pics, research, but unfortunately most people are writing for SEO where the number of posts is a bigger factor than quality of the post.

    Good compilation Shivya.

    February 26, 2013
    • Thanks Anuradha, and I completely agree with you. Quality over quantity!

      February 26, 2013
  20. Radhika Varma #

    Hey Shivya

    This is super helpful for people like me who just keeping thinking of starting a blog but has not clue of how and where to start from. thanks a lot :-) I hope I get to travel and get enough content to talk about soon :-P

    Ps: working on the tip you gave ;-)

    February 26, 2013
  21. Radhika Varma #

    Hey Shivya

    This is super helpful for people like me who just keeping thinking of starting a blog but has not clue of how and where to start from. thanks a lot :-) I hope I get to travel and get enough content to talk about soon :-P

    February 26, 2013
  22. Reblogged this on Ghumakkar Chronicles and commented:
    A guide to starting a travel blog by Shivya

    March 2, 2013
  23. Very helpful. thinking of starting it one soon :) Thank you so much :)

    March 2, 2013
  24. Very informative for newbie passionate bloggers.

    keep it up :)

    March 3, 2013
  25. Great post and some good tips. I think your last point is absolutely crucial. I know a few bloggers that started their blog for family and friends and then wanted to grow it, but they got so frustrated with the amount of time it involved that they lost interest. For me, I am not intending to make money with my blog (the odd press trip would be nice of course :-) , but that is not my aim). I see my blog as a creative outlet for something I am passionate about: traveling and writing. And I may not have as many readers as some of those big blogs, but I enjoy what I am doing whilst working full time in another job.

    March 5, 2013
  26. Pradeep #

    Hey shivya … Thank you so much for the tip… I am new to the blogging and yes monetary should not be your ultimate aim for writing rather it should be your love and passion … My passion lies in travelling an

    March 21, 2013
  27. Pradeep #

    Hey shivya … Thank you so much for the tip… I am new to the blogging and yes monetary should not be your ultimate aim for writing rather it should be your love and passion … My passion lies in travelling and Sales and love talking and righting about both … Your tip has been a great help …

    March 21, 2013
    • Glad you found it helpful, Pradeep. All the best with the travelling and writing :)

      March 23, 2013
  28. Travel blog is one of the most exciting to make because it you can visit different places, meet different people, and taste their delicious delicacies.

    April 4, 2013
  29. you just make it sound so doable :)

    April 18, 2013
    • It is definitely worth a shot atleast!

      April 21, 2013
  30. Solid advice Shivya! The most important thing I’ve learned about travel blogging is that it is not for me! However, it did lead me to what I really want to do with my website which is several years well spent if you ask me.

    Shivya, have a fanstastic week.

    April 19, 2013
    • Haha, that is equally important Kevin. Can’t wait to see your website’s makeover :)

      April 21, 2013
  31. Great tips on travel writing! I also appreciate the Flickr mention- I have found some great images there and always make sure to give these artists the credit they deserve.

    April 23, 2013
  32. My developer is trying to persuade me to move to .net from PHP.

    I have always disliked the idea because of the costs. But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using Movable-type
    on various websites for about a year and am nervous
    about switching to another platform. I have heard excellent things about
    blogengine.net. Is there a way I can import all my wordpress content into it?

    Any kind of help would be greatly appreciated!

    April 28, 2013
  33. Thanks Shivya,I am sure I shall be able to implement your suggestions.Thanks once again

    June 17, 2013
  34. Hi there! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers?

    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended
    up losing several weeks of hard work due to no data
    backup. Do you have any methods to prevent hackers?

    July 18, 2013
  35. Thanks for the great tips! I’ve been reading all of your “Travel Secrets” posts and they’re full of not only invaluable information, but lots of inspiration. Thanks so much for sharing what you’ve learned along the way!

    August 1, 2013
  36. Whats up this is somewhat of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors
    or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding knowledge so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be enormously appreciated!

    August 1, 2013
  37. Today, I went to the beach with my kids. I found a sea shell and
    gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to
    her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.

    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had
    to tell someone!

    August 29, 2013
  38. Congratulations on reaching another milestone in your travels & adventures. May you have many, many more to come, dear Shivya.

    January 15, 2014
  39. Me gustaria aprender ampliando sobre el tema

    February 14, 2014
  40. Mumbai is one of the popular tourist destinations in India. This city is loaded with number of tourist attractions to delight the travelers. Here are some top tourist places in Mumbai city and it’s nearby.

    May 30, 2014
  41. Sujet vraiment cultivant !

    June 3, 2014
  42. Hey Shivya, thank for sharing the tips over here. Its Inspirational. I love travel extremely, I was wondering how could I go ahead with travel blogging to earn money to fund my next travels. Your writings are short, beautiful and useful.

    July 10, 2014
  43. wow the tips are so realistic..very important for new travel bloggers..

    July 17, 2014
  44. whoah this blog is great i really like reading your posts.
    Keep up the great work! You know, many people
    are hunting round for this info, you could aid them
    greatly.

    August 2, 2014
  45. Ah! Shivya a great travel tips stuff here. but i am said with myself :( why i did not visit here just before…well still i can have the benefit with it….

    Thanks
    Ranthambore Jeep Safari..

    August 12, 2014
  46. Shivya, thank you for the tip about #ttot! I always see it but could never figure out when or why people were using it!

    November 5, 2014

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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