HOW TO START A TRAVEL BLOG: A STEP BY STEP GUIDE
In September 2015 I started Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog and while running a (travel) blog is a tremendous amount of work and never finished, I absolutely LOVE it!
I started my blog to inspire people to travel and help them plan their trips. It completely makes my day when I receive an email from one of my readers asking me for travel advice. Or when I get a comment on a post thanking me for the helpful information. The positive feedback and appreciation from my readers is why I love writing on PhenomenalGlobe.com, it is my main reason for blogging. And of course travel blogging gives me a perfect excuse to travel even more. After all, I continuously need great travel stories to write about!
If you also want to share your stories and become a resource for travel questions, read my step by step guide how to start a travel blog. Rest assured, I knew nothing about blogging, running a website and coding when I decided to start this blog. It’s not difficult and you can do it too! Follow these 7 steps and you are good to go☺.
How to start a successful travel blog?
- Choose a name for your blog
- Decide on a hosting company
- Install WordPress and essential plugins
- Pick the perfect theme for your blog
- Choose your color and design a logo
- Set up your website structure
- Start blogging
Step 1: Choose a name for your blog
Let’s start with the basics and something that took me months: deciding on a name for your blog… This blog would have been three months older had I been more decisive in choosing a name. But I wasn’t. I spent hours browsing through dictionaries and most beautiful words posts, making lists, checking domains and Google search results. Let me take you through my steps in detail.
Check domain availability
The first thing I did when I thought of a name that I liked, for example ‘A Travel Frenzy’, is check if the domain was available via Bluehost. After all, if it’s not available, no bothering with any next steps. Of course you can try a variation of the name, like TravelFrenzy or TravelersFrenzy, if the name you are aiming for is already taken BUT… you don’t want to be confused with an already existing website or blog.
Check social media availability
Say the ‘A Travel Frenzy’ domain is available, my next step was check Knowem.com, a neat little website where you type in your chosen travel blog name to see if it’s available on the long list of social networks. This website lists pretty much all of them, though strangely enough not Instagram, so don’t forget to check availability of your name there too. Again, if your desired name is not available on the important social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, Google+), choose another one. You are going to need social media and you want your name to be the same everywhere to avoid confusion.
Check google search results
Lets assume ‘A Travel Frenzy’ is available on all social media channels, I would continue with a Google search. After all, you want to know what results pop up when you type in your precious website name. For me, the most important thing in google search results was that no racist/sexist/cult or generally weird websites popped up.
Let it sink in
When my potential travel blog name passed these three checks I would let it rest for a couple of days, repeating the name over and over in my head. I can tell you, many names have been discarded during this ‘letting it sink in’ phase.
Go for it!
Obviously, the name I ultimately went for is Phenomenal Globe and I really like it! I like the meaning of Phenomenal ( nd I like that there is a rhythm to it because of the two O’s and L’s (phenOmenaL gLObe).
Step 2: Decide on a hosting company
Great, you have chosen the name for your blog! Now, let’s get hosted. I didn’t know what hosting was before starting my blog, but I soon found out there are thousands of hosting companies. What a hosting company essentially does is provide a server on which your site is stored and from which it can be accessed. It basically provides a place on the internet for your blog to exist.
I choose Bluehost because it’s a well-known and reputable company, but most of all because I had heard good stories about their customer support. Having used their customer support several times myself, I can say from personal experience it’s indeed very good.
A while ago I was attempting some coding I clearly wasn’t ready for and wrecked my site. The helpful guy from Bluehost live chat sorted out my problem and helped me get my site back online (though I can imagine he was laughing very hard about my terrible coding attempts?). Also, during my recent move to https I contacted Bluehost several times via chat and again they were very helpful.
Update August 2017: I recently switched hosting to A2 hosting, but not because I was unhappy with Bluehost. The reason I switched hosts is because my blog has been growing steadily and A2 hosting provides faster (turbo) servers.
When you are just starting out I still recommend Bluehost because they have a very cheap starter plan. As your blog grows, I recommend evaluating yearly which hosting party suits your needs best.
To get hosted head over to the Bluehost site via this link and this is the first page you’ll see.
If you click the green ‘Get started now’ button, you’ll be taken to the page below. Bluehost has regular sales so you might see even lower prices than the ones in the prinscreens. I choose the basic plan, which is the best value when you are starting out.
Time to make your domain (and thus the name of your travel blog) final by filling in the ‘new domain’ box.
On the next page you’ll be asked to fill in your contact details.
The next step is to decide on your package details. I added ‘Domain Privacy Protection’, this means people cannot see my personal information (address and phone number) when looking up the owner of this site (aka me). I also have the ‘Site Backup Pro’ service because I do not want to loose all the work I put into my site because I have not backed it up properly.
When you’ve chosen your options, fill in your payment information and you’ve got your domain and hosting, congrats!
Step 3: Install WordPress and essential plugins
The next step is to install WordPress. To do this, log into Bluehost and click on the cPanel tab. Here you’ll see the Install WordPress button.
When you click ‘Install WordPress’, you’ll be taken to the installation page where you choose the green start button…
…select your domain…
…fill in your details…
…and the installation will start.
That’s it! WordPress is now installed and you can start building your precious blog.
Head over to www.yourbrandnewblog.com/wp-admin/ to log on.
After logging on, you’ll be directed to your WordPress dashboard and you’re ready to install some essential plugins.
There are loads of useful WordPress plugins but this is my top 7 (actually top 9…) of ‘Plugins You Must Install’:
1. Akismet ⇒ I get a lot of spam comments every day but luckily the Akismet plugin blocks these and deletes them automatically.
2. Broken Link Checker ⇒ I want my site to be as helpful as possible and that means no broken links. There is nothing more annoying than clicking a link only to find out that post (which obviously contains relevant information to you, otherwise I wouldn’t have linked to it) no longer exists. This plugin notifies me of links that are broken or temporarily out of order.
3. Contact Form 7 ⇒ with this plugin you create a contact form which readers can use to get in touch. Mine is on my contact page.
4. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP ⇒ this is a very important one! It will tell you everything you need to know about your blogs traffic (unique users, your most visited pages, where your traffic is coming from, etc).
5. Limit Login Attempts ⇒ a security measure as this plugin limits the amount of login attempts and makes it more difficult to hack into your site.
6. Social media sharing ⇒ I have 3 separate plugins for this (there are probably plugins that offer all these features in 1, I just haven’t found it yet in the vast sea of WP plugins?):
• Social Media Feather: I want to make it easy for people to share my posts and this plugin displays social media share and follow buttons below each post.
• Fuse Social Floating Sidebar: this plugin makes 4 social media icons (FB, Twitter, IG and Pinterest) float on the right side of my site. It also adds the pretty little icons to my top menu.
• Pinterest Pin It Button On Image Hover And Post: again, it’s about making your content shareable. In my opinion, Pinterest is by far the best network for driving traffic to your site and this plugin makes a pin button appear when you hover over a picture on my blog.
7. Yoast SEO: we all use Google every day (well, I do) and the Yoast SEO plugin helps you to write SEO friendly posts, which in turn helps you to rank better in Google. And we all want to be on the 1st page of Google, because that means lots of traffic to your site!
Step 4: Pick the perfect theme for your blog
I spent many evenings playing around with website themes, it’s so much fun! But it can also quite difficult to decide which theme fits your blog best.
I currently have a free theme called Fashionistas. You can use this tool to look up which theme a website is using, however, I strongly urge you not to try and recreate (aka steal) the design of another blog. Of course you can write down elements you like about a site and try to find a theme which supports those features.
But the whole point about starting your own blog is to develop your own signature and stand out from the crowd. Don’t be a copy, be the real thing, be unique and most of all, be YOU!
I know there thousands of blogs out there and there are bound to be some similarities. But I’ve done some basic coding to my theme which means it’s now unique and nobody else has the exact same one. You can find themes at:
• Free WordPress Themes: this is where I found mine.
• Themeforest: I actually bought a theme from Themeforest but after playing around with it for a while, I decided I preferred my Fashionistas theme. They gave me a full refund (very customer friendly!) so if I were to switch themes in the future, I’ll definitely check out their selection again!
Step 5: Choose your color and design a logo
Choose your color
To build a recognizable brand I choose one color (a shade of blue in my case, because that happens to be my favorite color) to feature prominently throughout my site. Read more what color says about your business here. I use my color consistently on all my social media channels and incorporate it in my designs whenever I can. It’s in my logo as well, which brings me to my next point…
Design a logo
I created my own logo in PowerPoint but there are obviously more sophisticated tools out there (Canva for example). Or you can have somebody design a logo for you, Fiverr is a great site to get a customized logo cheaply.
Step 6: Set up your website structure
To me, this was one of the most important things about setting up my site. I wanted a blog that was easy to navigate. To me this meant not having to many ‘layers’. In fact, research has shown that drop-down menus generally are a bad idea. Therefore, I have chosen a very simple 1 layer menu, the only exception I made was for the destination tab where I added continents (2nd layer) and countries (3rd layer).The same goes for categories, think about the structure of your category setup. Are you going to create a different main category for each activity (diving, road trips, skiing, hiking, etc) or are you going to create subcategories (travel advice as the main category with subcategory accommodation, budget information, food, travel itineraries, etc.).
Step 7: Start blogging
Write a kick-ass about page
You want to tell people who you are, what makes you tick and make a connection on a personal level. If you write an about page that speaks to people, it will earn you loyal readers who will follow you for being you. You can find my about page here, though I am continuously working on this page as I still feel I could do a better job here myself.
Write posts and develop your own style
I would love to be able to write very funny posts, but I know it’s not my strength. What I am good at is being organized (okay, maybe slightly over organized;-), this helps me to write very thorough itinerary posts and create budget breakdown infographics which I know are really helpful to fellow travelers. I also created a travel planning library where readers can download all my planning resources.
What I’m trying to say: find your strength and develop your own unique style!
Promote your posts
Once you have written your post, you have to promote it. Particularly when you have a new blog, nobody will know about the awesome content you have written unless you tell them about it?. After I’ve published a post, I promote this on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and most importantly: Pinterest. You can learn much more about marketing your post at Digital Nomad Wannabe, a great blog by Sharon, she really knows her stuff!
So there you go, you are all set to make your travel blog a success! Enjoy☺. If you have any question, please leave a comment or get in touch.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will receive a small percentage of the sale if you decide to make a purchase. I appreciate your support a lot, which helps to keep this site running. If you have questions about a product, please don’t hesitate to contact me.