So, you want to be a travel blogger? (A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Start a Blog for Filipinos)

I’m often asked on how to start a travel blog or how we’re able to get our own domain. Apparently, a lot of people don’t know that we actually pay for our web hosting and domain. We do! In our first 2-year plan, we spent $85 (roughly P4200). Anyway, you can read all about that here as well as the complete easy steps on how to start a travel blog.

What you need to know before starting a travel blog

I really want to include this section because I think a lot of people have misconceptions about blogging.

READ: 6 Things You Didn’t Know about Travel Blogging

First and foremost, it’s important that you’re honest with why you want to start a travel blog. Are you in it for simple self-expression or do you want to earn? Do you want to be one of those digital nomads that are able to travel full time?

If it’s the latter, let me be honest. It’s not easy-peasy as most people think. Digital nomads treat their blogs as a business, plus there are extra challenges if you’re a blogger in the Philippines.

I’m going to discuss this further. One of the main income earners of international bloggers is affiliate marketing. Essentially, this involves promoting products and getting commission in return. Usually the brands involve are online retailers (Amazon) or booking platforms (Agoda, Booking.com, etc.). Affiliate marketing is most effective if your audience is outside the Philippines; in the US, for instance.

Second, the blogging industry in the Philippines is yet to be recognized for its value. Here, bloggers are less firm about getting paid properly, and a lot of brands treat bloggers as mere PR tools. Newbie bloggers can get P3000-4000 for sponsored posts, but you can see more-established bloggers (e.g., 2-3 years+ into blogging) accepting offers for P500 each. (I’m not sure what the local rates are to be honest, but internationally speaking and considering that links are permanent, meaning you’re offering something that will last until your blog does, P500 seems a bit low… unless you’re going for quantity over quality.)

READ: The Basics of How Travel Bloggers Earn by local blogger Followyouroad.

This isn’t meant to discourage you but give reasonable expectations on what it means to earn through travel blogging. The one tip I can give you to up your chances of earning is expanding your audience by writing about countries outside the Philippines as well.

That saying, there are also a lot of benefits of being a travel blogger. You can get invited to free trips by tourism boards or travel agencies and other events. This year, I was invited to Bucharest, although I had to decline because at that time I was about to resign from my full-time job.

To have a clearer idea on the “truths” or travel blogging, I recommend reading Oneika’s article about advice to newbie (or would-be) travel bloggers.

Now that’s out of the way, here are the steps you need to start a travel blog from scratch.

1. Decide what your blog is about

Everybody’s blog is different. Think about your favorite ones and what stands out in them. It’s often suggested to focus on a certain niche, but again it depends on you.

Would you like to have a blog about packing or perhaps luxury experiences? Are you into mindful travel? Solo or family travel? Do you want to write how to travel while coping with anxiety or other mental illnesses? Would you like it to be more of a “general” type, that is, to simply write about your travels without a specific angle in mind?

This blog is about Hali and I’s adventures. We mainly write about backpacking and budget guides, as well as a few advocacy including sustainable travel and voluntourism. Most of our audience are millennial backpackers or otherwise active travelers in the country.

We mainly write about backpacking. (Photo by Hali)

Travels with a Hobo is also a couples travel blog on budget travel. Backpacking with a Book are a blog by self-proclaimed modern hippies, with a focus on storytelling. Coffeehan is a blog about travel and coffee. You get the idea.

This might not be an important step now, but believe me, deciding what your blog is about early on will help you stay on track in the future.

2. Set up a WordPress blog

So this is the techie part on how to start a travel blog, but I’ll try to explain in layman’s terms so you guys can follow.

Many people get conflicted over Blogger or WordPress. It’s best to choose WordPress. Blogger is more suitable for casual blogging, while WordPress is for professional use.

Choosing a platform for blogging

You’ll find that there are 2 WordPress websites: wordpress.com and wordpress.org. These are different, so don’t confuse one with the other. Both are content management systems, which means they’re a platform for you to write and publish content online.

WordPress.com is free, while wordpress.org requires that you pay for your own web hosting (as well as your own domain name). Web hosting is basically a service that stores all your blog content and keeps your website up and running in the web through a server. So while wordpress.org allows you free use of its publishing platform, all your posts, media and theme needed to be stored and managed elsewhere.

READ: Self Hosted WordPress.org vs. Free WordPress.com [Infograph].

Ideally, you’ll want to get an account in wordpress.org for a couple of reasons: it’s more flexible in that you can modify themes, install plugins and optimize your blog for SEO (search engine optimization) so it can rank better in Google. It’s the best option if you want to monetize your blog in the future.

You’ll learn all these terms once you start blogging, but for now it’s best to choose a content management system that will allow you to do all these things in the future.

Choosing a web hosting company

If you’re scouring for web hosting companies, avoid BlueHost. It’s notorious for bad web and customer service.

Instead, I suggest going for SiteGround or InMotion. SiteGround is one of the most recommended hosting companies by professional bloggers and businesses. It’s cheap and apparently service is superb. We’re using InMotion after reading a comprehensive comparison of web hosting services for WordPress and seeing its impressive performance. We’re quite happy with it. It’s been smooth so far and downtime is rare. In addition, customer service always replies within a day.

Check out discounted packages in InMotion here or SiteGround here.

Inmotion promos.

InMotion offers 2-year plans. We got 50% off for the first 2 years, with free domain for the 1st year. We paid around $85 (~P4200). We got our money for payment from a sponsored post. After the initial 2-year plan, we have to pay about $190 for every additional 2 years.

Here We Go: Setting up a blog from scratch

So now, you’ve decided to go for wordpress.org and have presumably chosen a web hosting company as well.

Once you’ve chosen a plan from your web hosting company, your web hosting will guide you on setting up your account in WordPress and every other basic info for managing your website. If you have an existing account in wordpress.com, you can export your content (Go to Dashboard > Tools > Export) and import it in your new blog.

I started writing drafts in wordpress.com to get a feel of it. I got frustrated by the simple fact that I can’t change the css in my theme. Later on, we exported our content to wordpress.org. (This is why you can see some posts in our blog dated earlier in 2015 even though we’d officially launched our wordpress.org blog on December 2015.) We signed up for a web hosting plan, which already includes our own domain name (www.taraletsanywhere.com).

P.S. Thank you to my good friend Ralph for suggesting the name of our blog. 🙂

tl;dr WordPress is the best platform for blogging. Choose a web hosting company, avail of a plan, and they will help you set up/install WordPress.

3. Complete your blog’s look and install plugins

This step entails everything you need to do after creating a WordPress blog.

First, have your own logo and then choose a WordPress theme. A digital marketer colleague recommends getting paid professional themes, but personally I think free themes will do unless you want a highly customized theme for your blog.

A little knowledge about CSS will help you a lot in this area. If you’re not knowledgeable about CSS or HTML, don’t worry. Just (a) find a theme that requires little to no changes, (b) ask a friend, (c) Google.

Now that you’ve fixed your blog layout, it’s time to install necessary plugins for your blog. I recommend the following for beginners:

  • Akismet – Basically, it protects your blog from spam. We get hundreds of spam comments and it’s laborious to manually screen and delete them. Akismet is a free plugin that effectively filters spam and takes care of this issue.
  • Wordfence Security – An anti-virus, firewall and malware scan in one. (As you can see, I started with security plugins because security is a crucial aspect you shouldn’t overlook. You’ve no idea how many blogs get hacked nowadays and how this can be a real pain in the ass.)
  • Jetpack by WordPress.com – Jetpack is a featured-packed plugin that connects your blog to a WordPress.com. It also allows you to see your blog stats in real time.
  • Yoast SEO – This is your all-in-one SEO solution. It generates a sitemap for your blog so Google can crawl it. It also allows you to put in a keyword in a post and gives you the greenlight if the post is well optimized.

These plugins are good for beginner WordPress users. Over time, you can add more plugins for social media (that annoying Facebook or Sign Up popup, Instagram gallery), speed booster plugins (help speed up your page loading time) and other plugins that allow you to customize your blog.

4. Start writing content

Start writing your posts!

Congratulations! Now, this part is up to you. Just a few reminders.

There’s so much to say about blogging, but perhaps this is the most important: Content is king. Google loves good content and will reward you for it, readers will go back to your website to read good content as well.

Your content is largely determined by why you’re blogging in the first place. If you’re in it for the money, you’ll find that you need to publish more listicles and even clickbait-y titles. If you’re into it, you can also include subjects that millennials love including Instagram-worthy spots and current food and travel fads. You also have to post regularly, about 1-2x a week.

If you’re in it for mere self-expression or love of writing, I believe that no or at least minimal rules apply.

5. Create blog traffic

Learning is continuous when it comes to blogging. After you’ve written content, it’s time to promote your posts. I believe that blogging follows the 20/80 Paretto rule. That is, 20% of your time should go to writing content and the rest of the 80% goes to promotion.

If you were like me, you’d be in denial at first. I thought good content is enough to get readers, but apparently that’s not the case! Our “good content” didn’t even make it to people’s feed, much more in Google search results. It took me almost a whole year to get started on efforts to push our rank up in Google.

To do this, make sure that you’ve set up profiles in prominent social media websites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest). Normally you only have to focus on 1-2 of these. Even if it doesn’t bring much traffic, you’ll want to have social media presence so other people can find you (brands, tourism boards)

It’s also essential to learn the ins and outs of SEO (both online and offline), which I’ve briefly mentioned above. This will help you rank higher in Google search results.

You’ll learn that blogging actually takes a lot of time! The most important thing is to have fun while you’re at it.

Have this guide on how to start a travel blog for Filipinos been of help to you? Have any more questions? Feel free to post them in the comments below! 🙂

15 Comments

  1. I visited this post out of curiosity, to see how challenges in Philippines is different from the rest of the world. I would say it is pretty much applicable to Asia. I am glad you took time to share your thoughts and learning for new bloggers. Do you have a view on which social media platform worked best for you ?

    1. Hi Swati, glad to hear someone else can relate! Our biggest traffic driver is Google and then Facebook. 🙂 We don’t focus much on other social media. A lot of people swear by Pinterest but I think there’s also a big geographical factor in there. What about you?

  2. Hey Katherine, Thanks for such a great guide on starting a travel blog. I like the way you said 20% content creation and 80% promotion.

  3. HI! This was very helpful and interesting 🙂 I just started with the promotion stage of blogging. And yeah, it is true that content isn’t just always enough :p
    I have no idea with SEO? can you share some tips as well for it? Thank you!!!

    I wish to have a blog as successful as yours. More powers!

    1. Hi Nathalie! Glad you find this helpful.

      SEO is actually a huge topic that it’s impossible to discuss everything in a single post, let alone in a comment. But basically it’s the process of “optimizing” your website so that it can rank higher in Google search results. For the basics, you need good-quality content (Google prefers lengthy content nowadays… 1k+ words), choose a good keyword for your post (e.g., “budget guide to Palawan”) and promote your post in social media channels.

      You can read more about SEO for beginners here – https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo

  4. This is a good content. Im also a newbie blogger and I’ve been blogging for a couple of months now. I still don’t buy my own domain as well. The truth is, I’m having a hard time promoting my blog since there are a lot of aspiring bloggers out there. I’m still on the learning process. Hope my blog can be as successful as yours.

    1. Blogging is a continuous learning process… you have to move along the changes in social media, Google, trends, etc. Just keep doing it. 🙂 (Just followed your blog!)

  5. Hi Katherine and Hali, I am curious about how you approach brands and tourism boards to invite or sponsor you. I guess it’s also 80% trying and failing and 20% succeeding? I don’t want to feel down as I have only tried a few times, but I really want to learn. Hope you can share some tips. Thank you.

    1. Hi Migz. So far, 100% of our travels are self-funded… Aside from that invite in Burachest, we had other invites locally but there’s always conflict of schedule or other issues coming up.

      If you’re going to pitch, you’ll get mostly no’s. This is normal. I tried pitching once before and it was mostly ignored haha. Anyway, businesses aren’t really obliged to accommodate you… But as your blog grows, there are higher chances of acceptance and tourism boards/organizers may even be the ones to approach you.

      As for now, I suggest networking and joining blogger groups in FB. In Bloggers Community (you can search them in FB) there are often invites for lifestyle, food, travel bloggers. If you’re acquainted to more established bloggers, you’ll be in the loop for brands/tourism boards looking for bloggers.

      If you think you aren’t in that stage yet, focus on your blog and content first. 🙂 Does that help?

  6. Great read Katherine! Always enjoy your take.

    I was a little taken aback by the 20/80 Paretto rule. Wow!

    Here’s my take on it. When I started blogging (for real) 3 years ago I really gave social media a go. Signed up for all those accounts. Did the rounds, followed all the stupid rules that bloggers give you. Didn’t do a thing for me. Plus I didn’t enjoy it, it was just wasted time spinning my wheels.

    I said “screw it”. I started blogging because I enjoy writing and I enjoy connecting with people.

    I decided to concentrate on my own content. I do social media (a bit) but my primary outreach is/was reading other people’s blogs and commenting which I also enjoy doing.

    We get about 1000 people a day now on the blog, about 60% of which come from Google. Which means concentrate on content!! I’m glad I decided on the strategy I did. About 20% comes from one stream on social media which I’m not giving away (Facebook and Twitter stink in my books and, unless you pay – which I won’t do – you don’t get much traffic there). The balance 20% comes from our regular (subscribed) readers.

    I probably have much to learn about the business side of blogging. But my thing was always to do what I enjoy and concentrate on content, which I knew would eventually mean bigger numbers. And that has meant blogging revenue -although we could monetize more but honestly I haven’t concentrated on that yet (I have always had the opinion that you get to a certain level of traffic BEFORE you start monetizing).

    But social media – for me at least it was a lot of time down the drain. So I’m curious about where this 20/80 Panetto rule comes from (could it be from the big bloggers who are always encouraging the newbie bloggers to promote their stuff? Sorry if I’m cynical). I’d be curious about your opinion on that.

    Anyway, as always, interesting post.
    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. Hi Frank, I enjoyed your take as always. The 20/80 rule is my own philosophy… and it’s the same with others I’ve talked to, so I assumed it’s the norm! 😀 It’s nice to read a different approach to this.

      By promotion I mean both social media and SEO – you know getting backlinks for posts you want rank for and so on. Everything you need to do to get your content out there.

      Most of our traffic comes from Google as well. I kinda suck at social media to be honest haha. But social media clicks/shares factor in Google ranking. If we have a new post and it got traction in Facebook for instance, it easily ranks in the first few pages of Google. I have one post that got lots of Facebook shares and ranked in the first page after 1-2 weeks.

      I know that a lot of bloggers swear by Pinterest too – have you looked at that? I read about bloggers with a one-year website with 30k monthly traffic, mostly coming from Pinterest. It hasn’t worked for me so far, I guess because of our current audience (mainly coming from the Philippines) or maybe I’m just not fully committed on it yet.

      Anyway, I love your blog and how you’re straight to the point in telling what’s on your mind. Your content does shine. 🙂 That’s something that I find challenging considering the environment I grew up in (community oriented, people avoiding confrontations…), basically you need to blend in.

      Strategies are really different depending on what your goals are. I’m glad it’s working out for you!

    2. We are employing the same strategy with Frank. We focus on publishing quality, useful, and interesting content that readers can enjoy and relate. We also do a whole lot of engagement (e.g. replying to emails and comments, inviting readers to join events, giving them advice, etc.). This strategy allowed us to generate around 1,000 unique viewers per day.

      In the first place (and even up to now), we never intended our blog to earn or to become popular. In fact, we have absolutely zero knowledge on monetizing our blog. The money, sponsorships, and freebies just came later after we crawled in the mud.

      We remain focused on our objectives, which are 1) promote outdoor adventures (the promotion of is just an offshoot) in the Philippines, 2) inspire people to get off their sedentary lives, and 3) help local guides earn income.

      1. That’s good to hear. I love your adventures especially when you guys go diving!

        I also like helping local guides. If we’ve had a guide and he/she does an exemplary job, I make sure that we include that in our travel guides. If not, we just don’t mention it. Also, I think a lot of places in the Philippines will benefit from a boost in tourism… as long as they are effectively managed of course. There’s so much more to see in the country.

        We started the blog as a hobby but since it’s time consuming might as well earn from it. 🙂

    1. Hahaha! Yes, it takes a bit of learning curve. I discovered most plugins when I needed them. SEO is a whole course in itself. There are even websites dedicated solely to SEO. 🙂

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