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 and 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. (If you haven’t yet, read about this first: 6 Things You Didn’t Know about Travel Blogging.)
First and foremost, it’s important that you’re honest with yourself on why you want to start a travel blog. Are you in it for simple self-expression? 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 last, let me be honest. It’s can be challenging. Digital nomads treat their blogs as a business, plus there are additional hurdles if you’re a blogger in the Philippines.
Let me expand on this further.
One of the main income earners of travel 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.). What most people don’t know about affiliate marketing is your success largely depends on your audience (US readers have more value in affiliate marking). If you’re in countries like the Philippines, you will need hundred-thousands to millions of views monthly to generate decent money.
Second, the blogging industry in the Philippines is yet to be properly recognized for its value. It’s not only that brands underestimate online influence and offer minimal compensation, it’s also that local bloggers themselves do not demand what they’re worth. Sponsored posting, for example. Ideally, even if you’re a new blogger but have decent ranking in Google and monthly views, you can ask for $100 (P4000) minimum for a sponsored post, but in reality, there’s a lot of established bloggers (e.g., 2-3 years or more into blogging) who accept offers for P500 each. This is a bit low, particularly if you’re offering a permanent link, unless you’re going for quantity over quality or you’re trying to establish network connections.
READ: The Basics of How Travel Bloggers Earn by local blogger Followyouroad.
This isn’t meant to discourage whatsoever but give reasonable expectations on what it means to earn through travel blogging. If there’s a tip I can give you, it’s to expand your audience by writing about different countries, not just the Philippines.
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. For instance, 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. We also got invited to trips within the country (but again had to refuse due to schedule conflicts).
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 you want to write 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.
Do you want to write about backpacking or perhaps luxury experiences? Are you into mindful travel? Solo or family travel? Do you want to focus on how to travel while coping with anxiety or other mental illnesses? Would you like it to just be about you — the places you go, regardless of the traveling style?
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.
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 don’t have to be that different in a sense. A lot of successful travel blogs post about about budget guides, that’s it. But it’s important to decide what your blog is about early on. It will help you establish your identity and keep you on track in the future.
2. Set up a 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 whether to use Blogger or WordPress. It’s best to choose WordPress. Blogger is more suitable for casual blogging, while WordPress is for professional use.
Choosing the best platform for WordPress
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.
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 are serious about blogging or better yet want to monetize 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
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.
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.
Starting with WordPress.org
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.
Here is our experience.
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
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. You’ll simply attract your tribe. 🙂
5. Generate traffic to your blog
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 even to family or close friends, 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.
I’d been blogging on and off for 10 years, to be honest. When I started, it was very easy to generate traffic to your blog and I can make it to the first page of Google without much effort. All it takes is honest-to-goodness consistency and good content. Today, you have to be more technically savvy or at least know how to network with people who can help you promote your blog.
To start, 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! 🙂