How to Start a Travel Blog in 8 Steps
I’m frequently being asked how to start a travel blog by some friends and travel enthusiasts who are thinking of doing the same.
First things first: Anyone can start a travel blog, but starting a quality travel blog is a much more involved task. It involves time, it involves investment, and it involves a LOT of work.
My blog is only a couple of months old. When I decided to set up my blog I had no writing experience, had no idea how to run a website, and had never even heard of WordPress. I didn’t know what’s hosting, plugins, themes.
But this didn’t put me off.
What I have learned from it: Whether as a hobby or profession, on the long run travel blogging requires some technical skill.
I want to give a quick tutorial on how to create a travel blog from scratch in 8 easy steps!
Step 1: Pick a Blog Name
Finding the perfect name is arguably the most challenging aspect of starting a travel blog – it took hours of brainstorming for me to finally settle on Miss Abroad.
What do I mean by that? If you plan to blog about a specific destination you could name your blog “Anna in Italy”. But what if, one day, you decide to blog about another destination?
I am currently travelling for one year. I could have named my blog “Around the World in One Year” or something like that. But what happens if I want to continue blogging after my gap year?
Don’t limit your growth by your name choice!
Pick a name that describes you
My blog is focused on female travel so “Miss” was a great pick for me. Obviously I love travelling and I also lived abroad for a very long time. That’s how I got to the name “Miss Abroad”.
If you’re into luxury or backpacking, put words in your domain that convey that.
Avoid Overused Words
Don’t copy what is already out there…Nomadic X, Wandering X, X Travel Blog might sound good but those ideas have already been taken by others who are more established than you.
Keep it short and memorable
Use 3-4 words maximum. Ideally less. You want people to remember your blog.
Google your phrase
Use quotation marks (“your blog name“) to see if someone has already used your name on another site, or if it’s related to some shady site.
Secure your Social Media Handle
This is very important! As soon as you have decided on a name, make sure the name is available on social media.
When setting up your social media accounts you should use the same name throughout. Also, use the same profile picture. It is very important to be consistent so people can find you much easier.
Step 2: Set Up Hosting
If you are technically challenged like me, here is where you start to get confused.
What is Hosting?
Blog hosting is is like renting a space in the online world (like you rent an apartment). The hosting provider is your landlord! You pay them a small monthly fee to rent your internet space so your website stays live and accessible to the world.
The difference between Hosted and Self-Hosted Website Platforms:
Which one to pick?
If you only want to keep your friends and family updated on your travel, it’s sufficient to create a free WordPress.com blog (hosted).
BUT- If you want more people than just your friends and family to read your blog, if you want strangers to find your site, if you want the possibility of making money with your travel blog someday, then you should go for the self hosted option: WordPress.org. It is used by big websites like BBC, CNN, and New York Times!
- My website is “Missabroad.com” rather than “Missabroad.WordPress.com”
- It’s my own data and I have full control
- I can put advertising on my site (with a free wordpress.com, NOT possible)
- I can install plugins & custom themes
- I can use Google Analytics tracking (important)
Fortunately, it’s quick and easy to get it all set up.
Choosing a Host
There are many hosting companies out there. But bear in mind some of the not so popular low-cost providers can make you want to rage – they are frustrating when things go wrong.
I recommend Bluehost (also officially recommended by WordPress)!
Bluehost is affordable (from $3.95 a month), their live chat support team are helpful and can usually fix issues within minutes, and – bonus! – you’ll receive your domain name for free.
Setting up should take less than twenty minutes.
- From the front page, start by clicking the big Get Started Now button:
2. Next, choose the box on the left and put in your new domain name (hint: missabroad is already taken;):
3. Pick a Plan (I chose the ‘Plus’ plan for my site, simply because of the web space, but the basic one might be enough for you to start with).
4. Add Extra Features (most of these you don’t need, however I do recommend Domain Privacy Protection. Otherwise anyone can look up who owns your site, giving them access to your mailing address, email, and phone number. It’s worth the extra few bucks to block that from happening).
After your account is secured, it’s time to get WordPress up and running.
Step 3: Install WordPress
You have a domain name and hosting, but you need a content management system that will help you load information to the internet. That’s what WordPress is for.
Once you’ve registered with Bluehost, you can login to your Cpanel (tab on the menu bar) and install WordPress with just one click.
Follow the steps to set it up, install it to your domain (your new website URL) and you’re good to go.
Step 4: Choose and Install your Theme
WordPress blog comes with a couple of standard “themes”, or designs for your site. While this is ok for playing around in the beginning, if you want to take this seriously and eventually make money with your travel blog, you should buy a premium design. It’s usually about USD 50 (one time fee).
Initially I picked the Avada Theme because of the online reviews and everyone said it’s damn easy to use. Well, it’s not. I drove me crazy and eventually I gave up on it. Now I am using the Impreza Theme and am quite happy with it so far.
Before you jump into buying any theme you should have a rough plan of how you want your website to look like. Then you can check if the theme can support the functionalities and design you need.
Probably the most important point is to choose a theme that is RESPONSIVE. That is one that is mobile friendly and changes your site so that it suits the device the reader is using.
Since there are so many themes out there, making a choice can be overwhelming. Have a read though this helpful guide “Selecting the Perfect Theme for WordPress”.
Step 5: Learn how to use WordPress
Don’t be scared of it. WordPress is the industry standard when it comes to blogging platforms, and has been for years.
There are plenty of free tutorials out there and many helpful YouTube videos.
Basically most of it will come with practice.
Step 6: Download some useful Plugins
You can think of WordPress plugins as third-party apps for your website. They give you some extra features for your website.
Ideally you don’t want to have too many plugins as they can slow down your site. Also, some plugins might not be tested or compatible with your Theme and mess up your site.
Here are 10 Plugins I have on my website and that I recommend:
- Share Buttons by AddThis – Nice social media sharing buttons for your posts and pages
- Yoast SEO – The absolute best SEO plugin out there. It helps you create content that shows up better in search engines
- Google XML Sitemaps – Creates sitemaps which will help search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com to better index your blog
- WPBakery Visual Composer – A super easy drag and drop builder for your pages (almost no coding skills required)
- WP Smush – Reduces image file sizes, improves performance and boosts your SEO
- Google Analytics by WebKinder – Enables Google Analytics on all your pages without tracking your own visits.
- Facebook By WebLizar – See that little Facebook widget on my right sidebar? That makes it easy for people to become your fan on Facebook.
- WP-Optimize – Helps you to keep your WordPress database clean and healthy.
- Contact Form 7 – This will add a form to your contact page so that people can get in touch with you.
- Interactive World Maps – Have you seen the beautiful map on my homepage? The Interactive world Map plugin is a paid plugin, so it’s not something to opt for if you’re trying to keep your costs low, but if you want a beautifully designed map to showcase your travels, this is the one to go for.
Step 7: Design your Logo
A logo/banner is what you’ll use to differentiate yourself from other bloggers, so it’s kind of a big deal. If you are already working with Photoshop or Canva you would be able to design your kick-ass logo via those tools.
Alternatively, there are websites where you can make your own logo with ease:
Step 8: Set up Google Analytics
Google Analytics is the standard tracker for website analytics worldwide. I was not really friends with Google Analytics at the beginning, but fact is, if you want to blog professionally you will need to set up a Google Analytics account.
The tool tells you, how many people visit your site, where they are from, how they got to your blog, how much time they spend on each page and so much more. It takes a while to get your head around it, but again, it’s needed.
Now What? Start creating and sharing amazing content!
Don’t announce the website to the world before you have some content to show.
For now, you’ve set up your basic website. Sure, there’s social media buttons to add, blogs to write, and images to upload but these 8 steps will create the basic framework of your blog!
Know that it’s not going to be easy. It will take a long time and a tremendous amount of work before you gain a valuable audience interested in what you have to say on a regular basis.
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