When I first started “Girl vs Globe” in 2014, I didn’t have the slightest idea of how to start a successful travel blog. Nada. Zilch.
That is why I took to Google on a quest to become the one to rule them all… or at least attain a level of clarity that would make me feel more like an accomplished adult and less like a clueless toddler trying to build a Lego impression of a travel blog.
Surely enough my search returned lots of answers, mainly from full-time bloggers. They may as well have been unicorns, because at that time I did not particularly believe they could really exist or thought we were part of the same species.
After reading a few of their posts, I came to the conclusion that full-time travel bloggers were some of the most self-absorbed beings that ever lived. They started their posts with sentences like: “I get so many people asking me how to start a successful travel blog every day that I have finally decided to sit down and answer this question once and for all.”
“Show off. People don’t actually message you on a daily basis, do they? No way.” I was not convinced and I was not impressed.
Well, a year and a half has gone by since I published my first post on this website and I have now officially become one of the aforementioned unicorns. I’m a full-time blogger and I get so many people asking me how to start a successful travel blog every day that I have finally decided to sit down and answer this question once and for all. Did that sound extremely self-absorbed to you too? I’m sorry.
Because of all these questions, I have decided to sit down and give away some of my tips. This is just the first post in a series of “how to” posts about blogging in which I will share some of my top secrets to help you become a successful blogger! Today’s post is about starting a blog – but even if you already have one, feel free to read it as a refresher. Are you ready? Let’s begin…
1. Find a Name
What’s in a name? According to William Shakespeare, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But if the 16th century playwright were still around today, he’d probably rethink that ethos before launching his website.
You want your name to be memorable. You want it to define who you are. You also want a name that won’t be too limiting though. Sure, you may want to go down the descriptive route and call your blog “Fructarian Blonde in Paris”. But one day you will realise that subsiding on a diet of pure fructose is throwing your energy levels off whack, lose your patience with touching up your roots and get over Paris. Suddenly you’ll be an omnivorous brunette who wants to travel the world and your name will no longer fit!
You need a name that will grow with you. I started out writing only about travel, but now I cover fashion, lifestyle, food… Lots of things! I know many people would disagree with me, but in my opinion – unless you’re totally sure about it – you shouldn’t limit your blog’s growth by setting a time (“Travelling at Thirty”) or geographical limit (“Anastasia in Asia”).
Speaking of “Fructarian Blonde in Paris”, don’t make your name overly long and complicated. Your name is part of your brand and your brand should be as concise and memorable as possible. The simpler the better, in my opinion. Obviously, if the name is too simple – like “I Travel” – the domain (itravel.com) will likely not be available. But make it as simple as possible.
Now, some people will also tell you to think about SEO factors when picking your blog name. In a nutshell, SEO stands for “search engine optimisation” and refers to activities that improve your ranking on Google (as well as other search engines, but how often do you Bing stuff? exactly!). Don’t worry if you don’t really get it now – we’ll talk about SEO properly in another post.
Taking SEO into consideration in your blog title would basically mean including keywords like “travel” or “travel blog” – or even more specific ones such as “solo travel”, “female travel” or “LGBT travel”. If you can make it sound natural, I’d say go for it. But if you can’t, don’t worry about it. Your blog name shouldn’t sound like a run-of-the-mill travel website – it should sound like you.
2. Secure Your Social Media Handles
Found the perfect name? Now you need to make sure that all your social media handles are still available. What do I mean by that? If your blog’s name is “Sparkly Suitcase”, you want to make sure that @sparklysuitcase is still available on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube… all the social media networks you might want to use in the future. That’s one more reason why long blog names are not ideal – character limits won’t allow you to be @fructarianblondeinparis on Twitter!
If they are not available, consider whether the name is epic enough to make that worth it. Having different social media handles on different platforms is not a deal breaker, but it is much neater and makes it significantly easier for your readers to find you on other networks.
If all your social media handles are available, register them now. It’s ok, I’ll wait! The last thing you want is for someone to come along and snap it up. All done? Let’s move on to the next step…
3. Choose Your Platform
Congratulations, you’ve officially got a name and a social media presence, even if nobody is really listening yet. We’re getting there. Now that your online travel blogger persona has been established, you need to create a blog to go with it!
There are lots of platforms to host your website. WordPress, Blogger, Jimdo, Squarespace… I’m not even scratching the surface here.
Don’t let that list overwhelm you. The two most common options for bloggers are WordPress and Blogger, by a long shot. When I first launched “Girl vs Globe”, it was hosted on Blogger. Now, Blogger is great because of its simplicity – you can just sit down and write, because there are limited customisation options. As such it feels like a great option if you’re starting out.
But eventually Blogger became too limiting for me and I had to go through the annoying process of switching over to a self-hosted blog WordPress.org. My advice would be… Spare yourself the trouble and go with WordPress.org from the get go. Sure, it will cost you a few dollars in hosting every month (more on that in step 4), but it will be worth it in the long run.
You should know that WordPress.org also has a free cousin called WordPress.com. I’ve never used it so can’t speak to its quality – if you’d like to learn more about the merits of choosing WordPress.org, WordPress.com or Blogger, there are tonnes of posts comparing the two just a Google away! Check this comparison of WordPress.com and WordPress.org, and this one between WordPress.org and Blogger.
4. Get Hosted
If you’d like to go with Blogger, you can just register your domain via the Blogger dashboard with GoDaddy (although there are much better domain name registrars out there!). If you’d like to go with WordPress.com, you don’t need to do much either – you can register your domain through them for less than $20.
A word on domains… You don’t actually need a domain to start a blog – you can just get a free address instead, for example girlvsglobe.blogspot.com. But this post is about starting a successful travel blog and you won’t look professional without your own domain name. Domains are cheap (they start at about $10 per year) and there’s really no reason not to buy one.
If you’d like to go with WordPress.org – the one I, and most professional travel bloggers I know, use – it’s a little more complicated. Because WordPress.org sites are self-hosted, you’ll need to find a reliable host – and much like blogging platforms, there are lots of website hosts out there. Luckily, I use a wonderful host that I would definitely recommend to any aspiring travel bloggers – Bluehost. I’ve had a few posts go viral in the past and it never betrayed me by crashing or shooting me in the foot in any other way.
Let me talk you through the sign up process… First click here to go to Bluehost. Then click the green button that says “get started now”. Then pick a plan (see the photo above) – for a new blog, you can definitely go with the cheapest “Starter” option.
As for the add-ons I haven’t bothered with the Search Engine Jumpstart, SiteLock Domain Security or Site Backup Pro. You will need to backup your site, but there are free plugins on WordPress which you can use to do that instead! The only one I pay for is Domain Privacy Protection, because it prevents others from seeing personal information like the name and address tied to your blog.
5. Get a Design
Voila! The good news is that you’re officially hosted and your blog actually exists! The bad news is that it looks like poo.
You need a nice design to do your lovely blog justice. Now, when I say nice I just mean nice. I don’t mean breath-taking. I don’t mean perfect. Finding the perfect design is not something you should waste time or money on when you’re just starting out. There are tonnes of great WordPress (and Blogger) themes on Etsy which you can buy for as little as $10. You can also get a nice header designed on Fiverr for… $5. Bargain!
6. Start Writing
Before you start promoting the hell out of your awesome new blog, you need to make sure there’s some valuable content on it. I won’t go into too much detail about content writing here – it’s the most important thing you’ll ever do in regards to your blog and a short paragraph could never do it justice. Look out for a separate post about it instead!
I’d recommend uploading at least ten high quality posts you’re really proud of before starting. Otherwise you risk people coming to your site, not finding anything of value on it and never returning… And now that you’ve worked on it so hard, that would be a huge shame!
7. Make Connections
“Oh, but I’m not even a proper blogger yet! Nobody is reading those ten posts I worked on for a week,” I hear you say. Well… it doesn’t matter. If you want to start a successful travel blog, you don’t need to do it on your own. You should seek out a support network of people who understand the business – your fellow travel bloggers.
One great way of making connections is joining Facebook groups. I founded one myself – “Girls vs Globe“ with more than a thousand members. It’s not just for bloggers, but many of us do blog and understand the biz. It’s honestly the most incredibly supportive and passionate community I’ve ever been a part of. This will sound cheesy, but we make more than connections – we form proper friendships! My group is female-only (sorry boys!) but there are many others out there you can join (such as the “Under 1000 Club“) aimed at newer bloggers.
You can also reach out to travel bloggers whose websites you like directly – but don’t bombard them with questions like “how do you make money?” without first getting to know them or building rapport via social media. I get that you’re curious, but when did you last ask a stranger on the street that? Exactly.
8. Let The Games Begin!
This is the eighth and final step we will take together on this grand journey of starting a successful travel blog. You now have a lovely functioning website with a snappy title – all you need to do now is… get noticed. And you thought you’d done the hard part already…
If you’re wondering how you can stand out among the thousands of travel blogs already in existence, don’t worry. I’ve got your back. Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll be sharing more of my blogging tips with you, helping you become a successful blogger in your own right!
Did you find these tips helpful? Which other blogging topics would you most like me
to talk about? Let me know in the comments below! If you enjoyed this post,
please like and share it – that would mean the world to me!
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links which give me a cut if you make a purchase. This comes at no cost to you and allows me to continue running this blog and filling it with awesome free content! All photos of me were taken by Peter Parkorr (aka the boyfriend), aside from the second one taken by Ashley Colburn.