Free travel, free meals, free hotels, free tickets for famous and off-the-beaten track sites. And all for the price of a few hours on a laptop. No wonder new travel blogs pop up at such regular intervals.
And when these free perks fail to show up, it’s also no wonder many of them are left discarded, like so many travel plans during the COVID lockdown.
Look up how much a travel blogger makes a year and you will come across some very encouraging news. For a job you can do from your own home or from an exotic location, this seems the perfect career choice for travel-lovers. Most sites offering advice for travel blog success romanticise this choice. As the foundation behind a successful blog is to write about what you know and enjoy, doesn’t it seem right that any traveller could make money out of travel blogging?
The short answer, and an encouraging one, absolutely.
But there’s a long, less encouraging answer, too.
Marketer, Not Traveller
The first myth about travel blogging – in fact, the first myth about writing any blog – is that you can do it in your free time. In theory, you can. But only you have a lot of free time. Many beginning travel bloggers think that writing on the move saves time. Write blogs during a long haul flight, on the beach, on a train, and enjoy the destination like a true tourist,snapping photos you can keep for your private collection and add to your visually-exciting web pages.
But there’s much more to a blogging site than writing. Writing an article – no matter how long it takes you – only accounts for 50% of work input. Monetization (in other words, marketing), provides the lion’s share. You can be sure that your competition is spending long hours on marketing strategies that spread far from their domain address.
So let’s look at a simplified breakdown of what it takes to make a travel blog successful:
- Inspiration and the right topic choice. There’s no point in writing a travel blog about motorcycle routes in the US if you hardly go to the US and only drive a car.
- A degree of writing skill. While you can rely on Grammarly to tweak a few faux pas, becoming a recognised, authoritative voice takes practice and skill.
- Technical knowledge. Paying for someone to manage your website can be costly. It helps to know how to design and publish your pages, to ensure they load quickly, and to make them look different from the rest of the travel blogging crowd.
- Knowledge of eCommerce. Most monetization blogs integrate some form of sales. Whether these are digital or physical doesn’t matter. Your readers and followers should be able to make purchases via your website. Any glitch could end up as a negative review.
- Marketing expertise. Not knowledge, Expertise. You must understand the ins and outs of direct advertising, affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, native ads, social media marketing, backlinks, guest and sponsored posts, data sharing, targeting, media kit design and PPC marketing.
Gaining such experience takes time. As you learn, build up a library of content that motivates you to reach your goal. However, very few travel bloggers fall into success; most successful bloggers are marketing gurus rather than top travel writers.
Travel Blogging – An Uphill Hike
When you have reached a good level of writing, technical, eCommerce and marketing expertise and have, during this time, put together a fat library of visually interesting, truthful, engaging and unique blogs, you should expect your target audience to sign up in droves.
Getting visitors, getting followers and keeping these followers are three different things; however, all of them rely on the quality of your content, the reliability of your information, the frequency of your posts and the consistency of their updates.
Very few people pick a messy, badly-managed hotel when they go on holiday unless they really want to save on accommodation costs. They generally have low expectations that are proven during their stay. Before you consider spending time, energy and money on increasing traffic, provide your followers with a very pleasant place to stay. After all, they have lots of choices.
Continuous ads, plagiarised content, ugly design – to name but a few off-putting faults – make any visitor click on that top-right cross long before they come across anything of interest. There is a fine line between monetization and engagement. Too much of the former loses visitor interest. The chance to convert them into dedicated followers is lost – as is your chance of successful monetization.
Getting more blog visitors is the same for any blog, store, service or charity. Search engine optimization that works, advertising on every possible channel from YouTube to another blog that isn’t a direct competitor, publishing some of your carefully-written content on other sites and, in doing so, losing the opportunity to add it to your own (everything on your blog should be unique) … all of these methods bring in traffic. Increase momentum to every strategy with rapid targeted traffic sources such as offered by the Web Traffic Geeks Buy Website Traffic service. While paid traffic isn’t a stand-alone traffic enhancer, it works very well in tandem with other marketing methods. Monthly orders – especially before your blog becomes popular – not only bring in new potential signups, they also tell Google that your blog is worth visiting. This brings you higher up in the search results.
Getting people to add you to follow you means you have gained their interest and trust. Bombard visitors with irrelevant popup ads and rewrite other people’s content and they will see through you. Fail to add new blogs at least three times a week and interest is lost. Sell strange products that have nothing to do with the topic of your blog and you might make sales but won’t get blog followers.
Once a hotel has impressed a new visitor, it wants that visitor to come back. They wow them with customer service, local knowledge, the ability to solve any problem. The same applies to your travel blog – and to any successful business. Getting followers means making your blog offer more than the next.
This is where monetization makes its first appearance. A researched blog about which mid-range New York hotels provide the most luxurious towels should link to the discussed hotel websites and to trustworthy suppliers of these towels. By nurturing a presence on a larger online marketplace, your eCommerce opportunities are unlimited. Naturally, every marketplace needs specific expertise. Find a reliable supplier of your advertised towels (always try before you buy) and add a personalised embroidery service and you could provide a viable Etsy product, for example. However, etsy rank algorithms – like Google – are highly personalised. Once again, you need to immerse yourself in another marketing niche or find an expert.
The myth of free travel for travel bloggers is usually linked to this stage. Influencers with tens to hundreds of thousands of followers are of great interest to other businesses in terms of advertising. If your voice is a trusted voice, partner companies become trustworthy by proxy.
The first rule is to continue offering your followers what they expect, and more. Additional discounts for long-term signups and regular rewards are found on most successful eCommerce sites. These need to rely less and less on blatant advertising as their brand name has become paired with reliability, durability and getting one’s money’s worth. This should consistently be the case for your blog.
Partnering with the wrong product or company could undo all of your hard work overnight. You have done the legwork and many reputable and less reputable companies want you to offer a piggy back. Adding a clause to say you are not responsible for the actions of third parties could protect you legally but affects a positive reputation. Researching into the right partners will take up a huge slice of the time pie.
Ready to Write Your Travel Blog?
If you spend fifteen hours of every week writing your travel blog articles, expect to spend at least another fifteen hours making them marketable. While you can write offline during long journeys, most marketing is done online – researching, communicating and analysing information that pays for your efforts.
The truth of travel blogging is that it isn’t a job for the weekend. It’s a near full-time job that could eventually become an 80-hour week. And how many of those 80 hours pay depends not on your writing skills but on your marketing expertise.
Strip away the mythical romanticism of the life of the digital nomad and you get to the bones – hard work and long hours. Ready for that? Then you are ready to start a successful, lucrative travel blog. Oh, and pay for your own flights, hotels, meals and tickets with the proceeds. Because travel blogging freebies are simply modern-day marketing myths.