Updated August 2018.
Starting a travel blog can be very complicated if you don’t know where to begin. I started my travel blog over 2 years ago, and now I earn enough money blogging and freelancing that I can travel and work on the road. When starting my blog I figured, what have I got to lose? Even if I ended up giving up on it, it would still be a reminder of all the amazing adventures I’ve had (oh, and I’m definitely not giving up on it now- blogging is pretty addictive!).
Since I’ve started Wayfaring Kiwi I’ve been featured in large newspapers including the Daily Mail and travel websites such as Lonely Planet and Stuff Travel. I am also able to fund my travel now by working with tourism companies.
The surprising thing about travel blogging is you don’t need to spend a lot of money. All my photographs are taken on my Samsung Galaxy S6, or on cameras I’ve borrowed from friends. Only recently I purchased my first real piece of equipment, a GoPro Hero 4 Black (second hand, may I add). The most important thing about blogging is that you start. You can always improve your blog as you go.
I did hundreds of hours worth of research when creating my blog. I spent all-nighters on building Wayfaring Kiwi. I’ve written a guide for you so you don’t have to spend a huge amount of time learning the ins and outs of how to start a professional travel blog. It’s all here!
Step One: The Planning Phase
Do you already have an idea for what your travel blog should be about? Great! If not, don’t worry- I’m here to help.
The first step of the blogging process is to discover your niche. Answer these three questions:
1) What gap am I going to fill that the millions of other blogs out there don’t?
To be honest, I picked the name Wayfaring Kiwi for my blog because I just liked the sound of it. I liked it because I like to wander without an itinerary, discovering new places by foot. Kiwi is a term for a New Zealander. So there you go.
Since playing around with my blog and travel style, I’ve turned to blogging about being a female living in her van in Canada- which you wouldn’t really describe as ‘exploring by foot’ so had I discovered my niche earlier, I probably would have gone with a domain name such as SoloVanlifeInCanada.com or something similar. The upside of having a vague name is that I can change my niche, for example, I have plans to live in Scotland soon. There may be a niche that I stumble upon while travelling these countries, and I have the flexibility with my domain name to change it up.
I also should mention I have started another website that caters directly to my niche: Solo Female Vanlife. If you get the right hosting plan you can host several different websites (but more on that later).
Do a quick Google search of your planned blog name to ensure that name isn’t already taken, or that there is isn’t something very similar to it. You don’t want readers trying to access your website and ending up elsewhere.
Avoid using the following overused and cliched terms as part of your website: nomadic, wanderlust, wandering, wanderer, adventuress, adventure etc. Nomadic Matt already runs an incredibly successful travel blog, as does Young Adventuress. You want to be original, unique and memorable to your audience.
Also avoid names such as AdventuringWithBruce.com and the like. Who is Bruce anyway? And why would we care about Bruce?
Here is a list of the 100 most popular blog names. Have a read, and avoid recreating any of these names.
My advice is, find your niche and then purchase a domain name that makes it very obvious to your readers what your blog is about. There are tons of generic travel blogs out there. Are you planning to travel to Patagonia with your cat? Try something along the lines of CatagoniaTravels.com, or CatTravelsInPatagonia.com. Maybe you’ve ridden horses all your life and you’re wanting to explore the best treks around the world. Perhaps you are from Canada and you’re moving to a tiny village in China to teach English. Find your niche and get creative.
2) What value am I going to give my readers?
Believe it or not, you don’t start a professional travel blog for yourself. You create it to give value to those reading it. People don’t generally like to read ‘me, me, me’ content. They like to read content that resonates with them, inspires them, educates them. Think about it this way, would you rather read a post titled ‘5 Things I Liked About Italy’ or ‘5 Things You MUST Do In Italy?’
Readers are far more likely to click on the second link; it drums up excitement, they know they are going to get some great tips for their trip and it also adds pressure for them to click by making them think ‘what will I miss out on if I don’t read this?!’
Once your blog has been live for a few months you can also see who is reading your blog and where they are from. My largest audience is from Canada, the USA and New Zealand, so now I try and cater my content to these countries.
3) How can I monetize my blog?
You do not need to have this aspect planned out just yet, but keep it in mind. What are your long term plans for your blog? Are you wanting to use it to fund your travel by writing reviews for tourism companies? Do you want to sell products on your website? Are you wanting to earn money through placing adverts on your website, or through affiliate sales?
Write down a few ideas now, so that when it comes to building your blog you are prepared for the future.
Step 2: Set Up Hosting
Originally I used GoDaddy to host my website and I also purchased my domain name through them. However I have recently switched to Siteground as they offer a free SSL certificate. Having a secure website is important if you want to be a travel blogger, and essential if you want to sell items on your website!
I recommend starting out with the cheapest plan since you’re just starting out. You can always upgrade later on if you plan to have more than one website.
Many travel bloggers use Siteground for hosting. I am also a freelance website designer and host all of my client’s websites with Siteground. I love them because they have fantastic support- you can chat with a representative online at any time.
Step 3: Install WordPress
When it comes to the whole Blogger, Wix or WordPress debacle, I go for WordPress 100%. I find it incredibly easy to use and the majority of websites on the internet use it for a reason.
To install WordPress, log in to your Siteground account and click on My Accounts. Next to the domain name you want to use, click Manage Account. Click on Go To cPanel (cPanel is short for ‘control panel’). Scroll down to AutoInstallers and click on the WordPress icon and click Install Now.
Fill out the required fields, and choose a username to log into your website (Tip: Use your website’s name as your username, or your full name as when you reply to comments on your website this is the username that will appear), password and email address.
WordPress will be installed to your hosting account with the options you selected within 24 hours. When it is complete, you will receive a confirmation email.
Once you have installed WordPress, head to http://yourdomainname.com/wp-admin to log in to your website with the username and password you chose when you installed WordPress.
Remember, if you ever get stuck, Siteground have an online chat system so you can ask any questions!
Step 4: Choose A Theme
Now it’s time for the fun part! I suggest you sit down and have a good think about how you want your website to look and what aspects you want it to have.
Things to think about:
-do I want to include a shop on my travel blog?
-where do I want my menus to appear?
-what sort of pages will be on my blog?
-what other features do I want to include on my blog?
When I was searching for templates to use for my blog, I wanted something that was super easy to use, allowed me to place adverts on my website, have a slider on my homepage, list my most recent blog posts on my homepage, and have a sidebar that I could add photos with links to. I’ll admit, the first template I purchased was very glitchy and it didn’t allow me to change much. So make sure you read the template reviews to see any common problems associated with that template!
ThemeForest is a great place to start when looking for a WordPress theme. Many of these themes cost under $50 and offer 6 months worth of support so you can ask as many questions as you like if you’re confused. Most themes will come with an instruction guide on how to install your template, and this usually takes around 10 minutes to do.
Of course you can go with one of WordPress’ free themes, but these themes are usually set in stone so you can’t play around much. Plus, if you are wanting to approach and work with businesses, use Google Adsense or Amazon Affiliates to generate an income from your blog, a professional template is a necessity.
The only downside to buying a ThemeForest theme is that you are kind of stuck with one template. If you would like something a lot more flexible, I suggest Divi. I use Divi for all my websites, and if I were to sum Divi up in one word, it would be incredible. With Divi, you can build your website right before your eyes with their drag and drop technology.
You also receive free social media sharing and email list building plugins! You can customise these to however you like also.
The best thing about Divi is that there are thousands of tutorials to help you build your website on their YouTube channel. Their support is also amazing, and there is also a very helpful Facebook group if you have any questions.
Essentially, Divi has everything you need to start your travel blog, and you can change your website as you evolve as a blogger.
My advice is to buy a professional theme, and as your blog grows you have the ability to tweak it how you like. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it will take at least a few months for you to get into the swing of being a professional travel blogger.
Step 5: Personalising Your Website
Every professional website needs a professional logo. You can either create one yourself, or pay for someone to design one for you.
Canva: Canva is a great option if you are wanting to design your own logo because it is free to use. Once you create an account, sign in and experiment with the different banner options.
Fiverr: If you’d like an affordable logo designed for you, I suggest Fiverr. You can browse designers profiles and see how much they charge for a simple logo (some, as the name suggests, cost only $5!).
I also recommend coming up with a colour theme for your website. Select between 2-4 colours you will use for headlines, tabs, and any other buttons or backgrounds on your website. This adds consistency to your website, which makes it stand out even more, making it more memorable in your readers eyes.
Step 6: Use The Right Plugins
Your website template will usually come with a list of plugins to download, but in case they aren’t listed, here are some of my (free) favourites:
Akismet Anti-Spam: If you build it…the spammers will come. This plugin filters through the spammy comments for you, so you don’t have to spend hours going through each comment manually.
Contact Form 7: This allows you to add a contact form on your contact me page, so people can get in touch with you.
Flamingo: This plugin stores any messages you receive from Contact Form 7. A must if you have this plugin.
Google Analytics: Google Analytics tracks how many people are visiting your website, where they come from and lots of other helpful information. This plugin is a necessity!
Imsanity: This plugin stops insanely large photos from being uploaded, which can make your website load sloooooow.
Instagram Feed: This plugin allows you to display a role of your Instagram images.
MailChimp: This allows readers to sign up to your newsletter (note: you need to have a MailChimp account in order for this plugin to work).
SumoMe: Another helpful plugin that allows you to grow your email list in a number of ways. I use the free version, but you can upgrade to the paid version at any time.
WP Fastest Cache: Allows you to delete your website cache so your website is running at optimum speed.
WP Smush: Automatically reduces the file size of any photos uploaded.
Yoast SEO: This plugin is also a necessity. Yoast SEO (short for ‘search engine optimization’) improves your Google rankings, which is very important for generating website traffic!
Step 7: Create Delicious Content For Your Website
As a rule of thumb, you need to have at least ten blog posts written before launching your blog to the world. People aren’t going to keep coming back to your website if there is only one or two posts on there, are they?
You should also have the following pages:
-About Me (let your personality shine through, and include lots of photos!)
-Where I’ve Been
-Work With Me (optional)
-Media Kit (optional at the beginning stage)
Feel free to browse my travel blog to see what I’ve done with these pages. Remember to think about your audience when writing your blog posts- what would they like to know about the destination or experience you’re writing about?
Step 8: Driving Traffic To Your Website
I personally use Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram to drive traffic to my website. For every blog post you do, ensure you share it on these social media channels. Facebook is great because once you post something on your
I’ll be writing a detailed post on how to increase your blog’s website traffic at a later date. However if you’d like to know my #1 tip for increasing web traffic using Facebook, sign up to my newsletter below and I’ll tell you 🙂
This one tip made one blog post go from zero hits to over 3,000 hits in a few days. The best part? It took me less than half an hour to implement and cost me nothing!
Personally, I find Pinterest to be the best way to increase my website hits. During my first month using Pinterest, I had over 60,000 profile views. Pinterest was also responsible for over half of my website’s traffic! Pins have a shelf life of 7 months, which gives you plenty of coverage!
I have written a detailed, comprehensive guide on how to use Pinterest to increase your blog traffic here. Most professional bloggers charge people to access this sort of information, but I’m offering it to everyone for free. Check it out, and watch your website views climb.
Does This All Seem Like A Bit Too Much?
If this all seems like a lot of work (it is) and confusing (it can be!) I offer a service where I can set up your blog for you. For the past several years I have worked as a journalist, editor, social media guru and communications assistant. My main focus has been on digital media.
It can take weeks to build your travel blog (I learnt this the hard way). Why not save your time and money and let me do it all for you?
Here is what I can do for you:
-set up your hosting
-set up a domain name of your choosing
-create a professional email address (e.g. email@example.com)
-install a professional template of your choosing
-provide assistance with setting up your social media channels
-give you full training on how to use WordPress (including how to upload blog posts, SEO, Google Analytics training…and more!)
-provide one months support for any questions you have about your blog
-basically everything you need in order to start blogging right away!
Most people will charge thousands for this, but I am only charging $799NZD for the above! Yup, seriously. I just love doing this wayyy too much. If this interests you (I’m also happy to take payment installments) send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Useful Facebook Groups For Travel Bloggers:
Female Travel Bloggers: This is a great Facebook group for female travel bloggers who are wanting to connect with other bloggers, promote their blogs by taking part in a series of activities, or just finding answers to any questions they may have. This group is a little strict, so ensure you read the rules when you join to avoid getting kicked out. You cannot share your blog on this page, apart from on Saturdays.
Make Traffic Happen: This is a fantastic community with over 3000 members and focuses on the best ways to bring more traffic to your blog or website. The two women that run the group, Laura and Gemma, are SEO experts, and have some very good e-books for sale on their website that will help you drive traffic to your blog. I couldn’t recommend this group and these e-books enough!
Starting A Travel Blog FAQ:
How much do you typically spend when starting a travel blog?
I spent less than $150USD during my first year of blogging. This included purchasing a domain name, hosting, a Gmail email address, and two different templates. I could have gotten a free email address with my domain name, but I like Gmail so for an extra $5USD per month I found it was worth it.
I also subscribe to Adobe Cloud. This costs $65USD per month and gives me access to Photoshop, Lightroom, InDesign and Adobe Premier. There are plenty of free photography and video editing out there to use, so don’t panic about getting this right away.
When you think about it, less than $200 this is pretty cheap for starting a business!
How can you make money from your travel blog?
I go into detail about how I make money as a travel blogger in more detail here, but here are some of the main ways I make money from my blog:
Google Adsense: Google Adsense allows you to place adverts on your website. Once you place the ad code onto your website, there’s not much else you need to do. Your audience will see adverts that is around their interests, based on the information they have entered on the internet. You generate money from when people click on these adverts. See the sidebar on my homepage for an example of these ads.
Amazon Affiliate: Amazon is by far my favourite affiliate program for making money from my blog. You can control exactly what you are advertising on your website. Basically, you post a link to an item that can be purchased on Amazon, and you get a percentage of the sale. It’s important you only post products you use and believe in. People are not silly and if you are trying to advertise a product on your website with the intention of making money and it is not practical for your audience, you will lose readers. Also, you have to make a sale within 90 days of joining to stay in the program. Here is one of my examples of an Amazon Affiliate post.
Other Affiliate programs: Other affiliate programs I use include Commission Junction, Skyscanner, Air BnB, World Nomads, Agoda and TRVL. If there is a product you love you can always search ‘[product name] affiliate’ to see if they offer a program too.
How long does it take before you can start making money from your blog?
You can start making money right away using affiliate links, however you don’t want to blast your audience with them. Post some articles that are purely advice articles, and then post others with affiliate links. It is a steady climb making money from your blog. Give yourself at least one year of blogging before you can expect to make some good money from it.
Do you have any other tips for starting a travel blog? I’d love to hear them- comment below!
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase through these links, I receive a percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. This is how I make money so I can continue bringing you free, informative articles 🙂