A year ago I had no idea I would be the proud owner of a successful travel blog (with a new bloggers Liebster award no less!) I was happy enough working as a GP (family doctor) but I craved a creative outlet. Fast forward a few months an idea which formed over a few too many cocktails, to start a travel blog, actually came to fruition. I couldn’t be happier, working towards a perfect career balance of 50:50 medicine: travel writing.
Read more about why I blog in my article Why Blog?!
I can’t deny at times it was challenging. I’m a self-confessed technophobe and being so technically challenged as I am, setting up a website was not always a straightforward task! Tech support at Siteground were probably seriously sick of the sound of my voice after the first week! But now, looking back, I have realised that I’ve learned so much, obtained so many new skills and I would like to share those skills and that knowledge with you now so that you can start your own blog – no matter how technically challenged you may be!
What you can expect from this article...
- 1 Step 1 – Find your niche
- 2 Step 2 – Decide on a blog name
- 3 Step 3 – Register your domain and get yourself a web host
- 4 Step 4 Download WordPress.org
- 5 Step 5 – Customise your website
- 6 Step 6 – Add some Plugins
- 7 Step 7 – Add an ‘About Me’ page
- 8 Step 8- Write your first few articles
- 9 Step 9 – Promote your blog and build a following on social media
- 10 Step 10 – Build an email list
- 11 Now it’s time to Monetise your blog.
Step 1 – Find your niche
There’s no point blogging for the sake of it. Blogging is hard work – you have to be passionate about your subject otherwise you will soon lose interest. Don’t blog about what you think you should blog about – blog about what you love. When you’ve decided on your topic, try to narrow it down a little. Niche blogs with loyal followers become successful far quicker than generalised blogs where the niche is not obvious.
So you’ve decided you love travel enough to blog about it, think about what type of travel inspires you the most? Which type do you have the most experience/expertise in? Perhaps you’ve personally travelled the world on a shoestring budget? Or perhaps you have a passion for sustainable travel. Are you a vegetarian who has eaten your way around the world finding amazing vegetarian restaurants? Do you travel with children or as a couple?
Decide what your niche is and brand yourself accordingly. It doesn’t mean you can only post about your specialised niche but you need to make it obvious that is your area of speciality so that your followers know why they should be following you! You can have more than one niche but try not to have too many and make sure they are all related to each other! My personal niches as travel health and travel photography but I will write articles on all aspects of mid-budget travel.
Step 2 – Decide on a blog name
Deciding on a name can be tricky. You need it to be something which reflects you and what you’re about. It needs to be catchy, not too long and memorable. It needs to be unique. It needs to be future proof. If you make the title too specific like ‘Solo World Travel,’ should you meet a partner and continue to travel as a couple, your blog name will no longer be suitable. Changing your domain name and branding down the line is something you really want to avoid if you can! It’s a sure fire way to confuse and lose followers.
I chose my name The Globetrotter GP for several reasons. I wanted to put my other profession as a doctor in there somewhere because my target audience is other professionals who travel in their time off. It also helps give me some credibility when I talk about travel health – one of my niches! The use of alliteration with Globetrotter and GP makes it catchy. It’s not too long and is easy to remember.
How to think of a blog name.
- Think about your favourite travel bloggers – what was it about the name that attracted your attention?
- Start now by listing as many words as you can that are associated with your blog niche
- Now list words that make you unique. For me, this was ‘GP’
- Try mixing these words together.
- Try using words that start with the same letter or rhyme or sound good together.
- Avoid hyphens numbers etc – it’ll make it harder to remember.
- Once you’ve come up with a name, don’t rush into it. Ask family and friends their opinion, make sure you are 100% happy with your choice – it’s difficult to go back!
Once you’ve decided on a blog name, you will need to check the domain is available – start with GoDaddy.com to check there are no domains that are too similar to your own. Try typing in various similar names. You don’t want something that is too similar to your own.
Step 3 – Register your domain and get yourself a web host
What on earth is a web host you ask? I was baffled by the concept myself. But the best way I’ve heard it be described is like a web landlord – you effectively rent your space on the internet from them. Just like with a house landlord, if you have a problem with the space you rent, they can help case helping to keep your website safe and fast. They assist with firewalls and security, site speed, access to email, registering your domain and a lot of other things that would take way too long to list here!
I use SiteGround for this and they have been totally amazing! As a complete and utter technophobe, I found setting up a website totally baffling at first! SiteGround have an AMAZING customer support service and can be contacted 24 hours a day via an online chat service. Even at stupid-o-clock in the morning, I could ask a question and have an answer within a few minutes.
It will ask you to choose your plan. You can upgrade at a later time so I recommend starting with Start Up or Grow Big. Personally, I went for Grow Big as I have lots of pictures and some videos on my site so I wanted the extra speed! It’ll ask you to register your domain name and ask for payment details.
Step 4 Download WordPress.org
Now you have registered for your host server and domain name, it’s time to download wordpress. There are other website creation tools but WordPress.org is by far the best! Please note that wordpress.com and wordpress.org are different. The wordpress.org version will be better long-term for your blog as it’ll give you more options for customising it to your needs. (WordPress.com is more for people who want a super simple website for hobby purposes only) Through Siteground, you will automatically be able to download wordpress.org.
Start by going to site panel – my account tab. Here click on cPanel. Always choose to access it securely when it asks.
From here, find WordPress under auto installers and click on it. From here you can download wordpress easily!
Step 5 – Customise your website
Now for the fun part! It’s time to make your website look pretty!
Have a think about what sort of people you are attracting first. Do you think your audience will be mostly women? Mostly older or younger? Are they very active outdoorsy people or are they professionals? Design your website around your target audience. Now not to be controversially stereotypical here BUT, if your target audience is adventure seeking men, you probably don’t want a pastel themed website with lots of feminine images…!
In order to start customising your website, you will need to choose a theme. There are so many to choose from and many are completely free. Have a look through the ones already downloaded on wordpress, but if you don’t like any, just do a google search for ‘free wordpress themes’ and you will find plenty more! If you decide to go looking for a different theme, download it to your computer and then in the wordpress dashboard choose appearances – theme – add new. You can then choose to upload a new theme or search the available themes. It’s super easy!
Top tip: If you see a website design you love you can easily find out what theme (and plugins) they are using by typing their domain name into a search box at whatwpthemeisthat.com
Now that you have chosen a theme, you will want to customize it and make it unique to you! Under the Appearance tab, click on customize. It will take you to the customize screen where you can change lots of different elements such as Site name and tagline, colours, layout, logos, background images, fonts, menus… Have fun and enjoy making something which reflects you and your brand.
Step 6 – Add some Plugins
What’s a plugin you say? Well, it’s a piece of software which acts as an add-on to provide extra functionality. You can use these for a variety of uses such as speeding up your website, adding contact forms and customizing your posts. Here are a few of my favourites
- Akismet anti-spam – this has blocked countless spam attempts on my blog.
- Yoast SEO – when you edit your post in wordpress dashboard, a yoast search engine optimisation box will appear beneath your article. Type in the main key word/phrase (e.g. start a blog) and it will scan your draft and let you know if you need to make any changes to help get your article higher up the google ranking and seen more often!
- Contact form 7 – allows your readers to contact you via email
- Jetpack – helps to keep your site secure but also gives you great feedback on your site statistics e.g. number of visitors, where the visitors were referred from etc
- Sassy social share – allows your readers to share articles directly with their social media accounts.
- Shortcodes Ultimate – a great tool for editing your posts and making them look professional. Add drop down boxes, quotes etc. I use this plugin all the time!
There are loads more but this should get you started! There are plugins for almost any function you can think of so just do a google search if you can’t find what you are looking for.
How to add plugins: In wordpress dashboard, you will find plugins under appearance. Again you can search for plugins via wordpress or download and install a plugin directly using the same technique as for themes. Don’t forget to press activate once you have installed it!
Step 7 – Add an ‘About Me’ page
Create a page to tell your reader all about you. Here are some things you should think about including if you are creating a travel blog
- A photo of you.
- An introduction to who you are
- What sort of travel you enjoy
- Where have you been? Consider including a map here.
- Where are you going? Any big trips planned or do you have a bucket list? Let your readers know what to expect.
- Who might enjoy reading your blog?
- What can they expect? I.e what are your niches?
- How can they contact you? What are your social media handles?
- I also include 3 random fun facts about me – it makes my page more personal!
- Now make your ‘about me’ page visible by placing it in your top menu.
Step 8- Write your first few articles
Now you can finally write your very first blog post! Here are my top tips for writing a great article.
- Answer a problem. Think of something that your readers would like to know or find out more about and answer that query. Is it how to book cheap flights? How to travel cheaply? How to pack efficiently for a trip to a cold climate? What are the best things to do in Berlin?
- Make sure your title is clear and states what the purpose of the article is. It also needs to be catchy and draw the reader in.
- Write clearly, try not to waffle on too long! Keep your sentences short when you can. Also, break up long sections of text into short paragraphs.
- Add photos to help make your post more attractive. If you don’t have suitable photos, you can use free stock photo websites such as Unsplash
- Posts need to be a minimum of 300 words and preferably > 1000 words to rank well on google
- Use subheadings, tables, graphs, bullet points and lists to keep your readers engaged.
- Once it’s finished, choose a featured image and click publish.
Register on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as a minimum. Set up business pages with the name of your blog, not your personal name. Post regularly to these, sharing your own and other peoples content. To build a loyal following you will need to interact a lot! Like, comment and share other peoples articles if you think it’s relevant to your readers. Follow people in your own niche. Join Facebook groups for bloggers and join in a social media feed. For example, you may have to retweet 20 peoples posts in return for those same people retweeting your own post. Be active in these groups and you will find your traffic increasing quickly!
Step 10 – Build an email list
I use mailerlite for this. They are a great way to create opt in’s for your email list. Choose from embedded sign up boxes, pop up boxes or landing pages. Create a product which your followers will love which will encourage them to sign up for your newsletter. For example, I created a printable travel planner and a photography e-course for beginners. Once you have a mailing list, you have a group of people who are already interested in what you have to say whom you can contact directly and remind them why they should revisit your site! Tell them whats new, whats coming soon. Tell them about an offer or a giveaway or include useful travel tips to keep them engaged.
Now it’s time to Monetise your blog.
This is a huge topic so we’ll need to cover this in more detail later. But if you can’t wait that long, the main ways to monetise your blog are
1/ Affiliate marketing – if you refer someone to a product or service you love and they sign up, you get paid commission. There are many programs you can sign up which work with various publishers such as Awin and CJ. Another option is skimlinks where the affiliate company will turn any links you naturally sue into affiliate links which is super handy for lazy people!
2/ Advertisements – companies pay to advertise on your website
3/ Sponsored Posts – companies pay you to write a post which helps promote their own business. You will always need to state when something an article is sponsored – it’s the law.
Although you can start making money straight away with affiliate marketing, do not expect to get rich quick! You will need large numbers of traffic and a to build a solid reputation before you start to notice people actually signing up for the products you recommend! Paid adverts and sponsored posts are likely only to come your way after you’ve built up an established website with a steady stream of monthly traffic.
Some great advice I was given was to think of creating your blog in 3 stages
1 – Grow your following and gain traffic to your website (Read here to find out how I got 3000 views in my first month!)
2- Get your followers to start engaging with you. there is no point having a huge following on social media that never engage with your posts. Start discussions, create polls, get people talking and commenting on your articles
3- If you have a large engaged audience, it is now time to monetize your blog. Realistically most blogs will not make a single penny for the first 6-12 months. Starting a profitable blog is not easy, it will take a lot of hard work and it won’t usually give fast results. But, if you stick with it and create a great website which is useful for your followers, you have the potential to make an earning from doing something which you love and how cool is that?!
So all that’s left to say is Good luck, work hard and enjoy yourself! If you have any questions, posts below and I will do my best to help with them.
If you’d like to hear more about how to make your blog an instant success, please read my article about how I achieved 3000 views in my first ever month of blogging! It’s packed with tips on SEO and social media marketing which I think you’ll find really useful!
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