I want to be honest. This blog post was created out of frustration. I’m frustrated with the deceit that goes on in the blogging world. Too often do I see blog posts titled, “5 Easy Steps to Creating a Money-Making Blog!” or “Start Earning Thousands From Your Blog in Just Six Weeks!”
Let’s get real. In NO way is creating a money-making blog easy. It never has been.
Blogging takes a lot of hard work and self-taught skills. I’m tired of seeing these posts from other bloggers that claim the opposite. They are complete bullshit (excuse my language).
In reality, those posts are likely just trying to get you to purchase items and services from their affiliate links (affiliate links are the way bloggers make money). They tell you what you want to hear so that you’ll turn around and make them money.
But I’m not going to do that.
Sure, this post will contain affiliate links, but I’m going to be completely honest with you. There is no reason that a blogger should ever lie about the hard work that is required to turn a blog into a business. Don’t get me wrong, working remotely and setting your own schedule is incredible. I am in love with what I do.
But blogging is NOT easy.
Does that mean you shouldn’t start a blog and reach for your goals? Absolutely not. The point of this guide is to walk you through every small detail about monetizing your travel blog. I want you to remember that making money from a travel blog is achievable; travelers do it everyday. But be prepared for a LOT of work.
So, if you’re up for the challenge, let’s do this.
Note: It might be best to save this post to your favorites menu. Since it is over 10,000 words long and packed with every detail necessary for monetizing a travel blog, it will take you time to read and implement all of the suggested steps.
Common Questions About Making Money As A Travel Blogger
Before we jump into the guide, I wanted to address several of the most common questions about making money as a travel blogger. These questions stand in the way for many aspiring bloggers. False information regarding travel blogging is constantly floating around the internet, so let’s answer these questions once and for all.
It’s 2020.. Isn’t The Travel Blog Industry Over-Saturated?
It’s a common misconception that 2020 is too late to start a successful travel blog.. or any blog for that matter. This is an excuse many people use not to pursue travel blogging.
The truth is, with the right tools and knowledge, you can start a successful travel blog at any time. Yes, it might be difficult to stand out from other travel blogs, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. For this travel blog, I use a strategic formula, which takes out all the guesswork. I don’t wonder if I’ll succeed, I know I’ll succeed. I’ll explain this in greater detail later.
The easiest way to stand out in the travel blog industry is to niche-down. Getting specific with your blog will set you apart from others, help you get noticed, and help you show up on Google. Become an expert in your travel niche and your blog WILL succeed.
For more about selecting a travel blog niche, continue to step one below.
How Long Will It Take To Make Money As A Travel Blogger?
The time it takes to turn a travel blog into a money-making business varies for everyone. There is no definitive time frame for this to happen, so forget what other bloggers might have promised you with their “how-to” guides.
If you only learn one thing from this blog post, let it be that you should never compare your travel blog to others. Their journey to success is completely different from yours. There are so many different factors that attribute to turning a blog into a business. Comparing yourself is irrelevant.
Instead, focus on your own goals. With hard work, the money will come.
How Much Money Can I Make As A Travel Blogger?
This is another question that differs for every travel blogger. I know several travel bloggers who make a couple of hundred dollars per month, while others earn over $50,000 per month (yes, seriously).
The amount of money you can make as a travel blogger depends on several different factors. Are you practicing proper affiliate marketing techniques? How many readers are coming to your site each day? Each month? Are you using ads; if so, what kind? Do you sell your own product?
As you can see, there are so many ways to earn money as a travel blogger. Continue reading to find out exactly how travel bloggers monetize their sites and how to earn money from your own site, too.
How To Make Money As A Travel Blogger
And now for what you’ve all been waiting for: how can I make money as a travel blogger?
You’re probably wondering, “why should I listen to you? What makes this guide different from any other how-to-blog guide I’ve read in the past?”
That’s a fair question.
To you, I’m just another travel blogger. But what you might not know is that I’ve been working on my blog for the past 5+ years. I’ve struggled, made horrible blogging mistakes, and had epic triumphs. Through it all, I’ve documented every step. Every failure. Every success.
I’ve done hundreds upon hundreds of hours of research trying to break into this harsh blogging world. The courses I’ve taken, books I’ve read, and podcasts I’ve listened to helped me understand what it takes to become a successful blogger.
And I’m here to give you all of those important details. EVERY detail. This guide is as straight-forward and honest as it can get.
So here it is. This is an extensive account of how I turned my small hobby travel blog into a full-time business and how you could do the same:
1. Decide Your Travel Blog Niche
The first step to making money as a travel blogger is to decide on a travel blog niche. As I stated before, getting specific with your blog will help you stand out in the travel blogging world.
You’ll also learn that when you focus on specific topics, Google will favor your site and move you up in the rankings. If it isn’t obvious, being higher in Google rankings will help drive traffic to your website. More on Google rankings later.
In order to choose a travel blog niche, think about what you have to offer others. There are two main reasons that blogs are created: to help solve problems or for entertainment. Since the majority of travel bloggers exist to answer travel-related queries and offer advice, think about a topic that you can shed light on.
This topic should be specific enough that you can stand out compared to the competition, but broad enough where you’ll have plenty of things to write about.
For example, choosing the topic “budget travel” is a bit too broad considering this is a highly saturated blog niche and there is so much to cover. Instead, consider focusing on “budget travel for families” or “budget travel for solo-travelers”. These topics are much narrower and have a lot of great content potential.
On the contrary, keep in mind that your travel blog niche shouldn’t be too narrow, either. Running out of quality content is a no-no.
Broad Travel Blogs And How To Make Them Work For You
I know some of you are reading this and thinking, “but my blog niche is just travel, nothing specific.”
Although it’s more difficult to compete against your blog competition when you don’t have a specific focus, it isn’t impossible to turn those blogs into money-making businesses. However, it will take a lot more work. You’ll learn why those blogs require more work in step 5.
2. Choose A Travel Blog Name
The second step to making money as a travel blogger is to choose a travel blog name. This seems like a silly task, one that might take a few minutes of brainstorming. But before you choose a travel blog name, keep in mind that this will be the name of your business for the foreseeable future.
One of the biggest mistakes I made when I started travel blogging was choosing a blog name that I couldn’t grow with. A few years down the line, I was writing completely different content and my travel blog name just didn’t fit.
Little did I know, changing my URL and travel blog name was a lot more difficult than I thought. It took weeks to figure out all of the small details and redirect my content to the new URL. It also dropped my blog in Google rankings, which took months to recover.
So, your task will be to think long and hard about what you want your travel blog name to be. This name will represent your business.
Start your business on the right foot and choose a travel blog name that fits your niche, aligns with your content, and represents who you are. I recently wrote an entire post about choosing the best travel blog name, which you can find here:
3. Self-Host Your Travel Blog
After all the brainstorming, it’s finally time to set up your travel blog.
We’re about to jump into the techie stuff, but don’t worry. I know these next few steps can be confusing for some, but I’ll make this as straight-forward as possible. If you’ve already set up your blog, jump down to step 5!
In order to earn money from your blog, it’s vital that you self-host. Self-hosting your blog means that you OWN your blog and no one else can claim it as theirs.
I’d say the easiest way to invalidate yourself as a blogger is to have your URL say something like: mikeandlauratravel.wordpress.com or mikeandlauratravel.blogspot.com. To avoid this, self-host your blog.
To self-host your blog, sign-up for Bluehost, the web-hosting company that we use.
Bluehost makes self-hosting a blog simple. They offer support whenever you need it and the price is unbeatable; we currently pay just $3.95 per month.
Register Your Travel Blog Domain Name
After you’ve selected your Bluehost plan, you’ll be prompted to add a domain name (aka your URL and blog name).
A word of warning: If your desired travel blog name isn’t available in the .com form, I recommend choosing a different name. It has been consistently proven that URLs ending in .com are more trusted and successful.
After you select your domain name, you’ll need to fill out your personal information. This shouldn’t take longer than 3 minutes.
When you have filled out your information, you’ll be asked to select any add-ons.
Personally, I recommend adding domain privacy to your package. Domain privacy is set up to help you keep your identity private from the general public.
If you didn’t know, the general public has access to the information of any website, which includes: name, address, email address, etc.
FYI, I didn’t know this either!
However, with the domain privacy protection, you’ll be able to keep your information hidden.
Once you’ve finished registering your domain, it’s time to open WordPress and design your blog layout.
4. Set Up WordPress
Now we’re going to move from Bluehost over to WordPress.
WordPress is the place where you can customize your website and write blog posts. This is where you will spend the majority of your time.
To get from Bluehost to WordPress, simply login to your Bluehost account and click “Log into WordPress”.
I. Choose A Theme
Once you’ve been taken over to WordPress, you can start designing and customizing your blog layout. The first thing you’ll want to do is select a theme.
If this is completely foreign to you, a theme is how your blog will appear visually to your readers, also known as your blog layout. There are thousands of different theme choices, which you can find on your WordPress dashboard.
As the picture above shows, hover over “Appearance” and select “Themes”. This will take you to a theme manager page where you can select the best layout for your website.
I currently use the Bard theme, which is why you see this theme largely displayed on my theme manager page. Your theme manager page will not look the same, so in order to select your own theme, click on either “Premium Themes” or “WordPress.org Themes” at the top of the page.
A premium theme is one that you can purchase. It offers more versatility and customization for your website. WordPress.org themes are free and don’t offer as many customization options.
Personally, I use a WordPress.org theme because I found one that I really like and that works well with my content. In the future, I’ll change my theme to keep things up-to-date, but for now, this has been fine.
I recommend looking through other travel bloggers’ blogs and seeing what you like about their layouts and what you don’t like about their layouts. Next, spend time looking through all of your theme options to find one that aligns perfectly with what you liked from other blogs.
II. Simple Layouts
The loading speed of your site DOES matter for user satisfaction. If your site takes forever and a day to load and your user satisfaction is poor, Google will drop you in the rankings. I highly recommend keeping your layout (theme) simple. Simple layouts help speed up your site, which increases user satisfaction. Here are a few things to stay away from when choosing a theme:
- Large sliders: you know when you get to a website and there is a featured image that continually changes every few seconds? Yeah, these actually decrease site speed. Instead, create pillars (or categories) so that your audience can easily find the information they are looking for.
- Instagram feeds: it has been proven time and again that displaying an Instagram feed on your website decreases site speed. Loading all of those high-quality Instagram images takes a lot of time. Luckily, many themes that offer this make it an optional feature. Just say no to Instagram feeds on your blog!
Instead, share just your social media links as opposed to an entire feed of Instagram pictures. It is good to connect all of your accounts to your travel blog so readers can follow you on multiple platforms. You can see my social media links in the picture above. If you want something larger, that can be done as well.
III. Customizing Your Travel Blog
Now that you’ve decided on your travel blog theme, you’ll be able to customize the layout to fit your needs and style. To start customizing, find the “Appearance” tab on the left sidebar of your WordPress dashboard. When you hover over this tab, a dropdown menu will appear. Choose “Customize”.
You’ll be brought to an editor page like the one shown below. Here you’ll have the ability to change the font size, header image, featured images, and all other functions that your theme allows.
I highly suggest playing around with the customization editor in order to understand all of the features and how you can use them to fit your needs.
IV. Creating Menus
Menus are a vital part of any travel blog. Your menu will include all of the important categories that you write about. They help your readers navigate your page, find what they are looking for, and hopefully stay on your page for as long as possible.
To create menus, think about your travel blog niche. Although you picked a specific travel category, there are probably several different topics that you are writing about that relate to your niche.
Below you can see an example of a travel blog written about Central Asia travel. With the niche Central Asia, you can cover things like visa requirements, different destinations, and what to pack. There are hundreds of quality posts that can be generated from these sub-categories. In turn, I will use these sub-categories as menu options.
A few other important menu categories to consider including are an about me page and a travel resources page.
An “About Me” page is a great place to connect with your readers. Show them who you are and why they should trust you. This is your opportunity to show them that you are a real human, not just words on a screen. Creating a connection with your readers helps build trust, which is vital when it comes to blogging.
A “Travel Resources” page helps your readers connect with the products you use and believe in. Once the trust is built with a reader, they will look to you for expert advice. A travel resources page is a great place to display your affiliate links, too (more on affiliate marketing at #10).
V. Creating Pillars
Pillars are something you’ll implement after you’ve written several blog posts and have a good amount of information about specific topics.
Pillars are very similar to menu categories. In fact, it’s actually very smart to have your menu options lead to pillar pages.
Pillar pages are where you will store all of the content about a specific topic. For example, I have many blog posts related to the topic “VIPKID”. Because I have so many different articles relating to the same topic, I decided to create a page dedicated to all of these blog posts, which you can find here:
My VIPKID pillar page is set up so that readers can easily navigate through these blog posts and find what they are looking for. Without pillar pages, your audience will look through hoards of new blog posts that might not relate to the topic they have in mind.
There are several ways to design pillar pages but the easiest way is to create a new page and list all of the content that has similar keywords.
To add a new page, hover over the “Pages” tab on the lefthand side of the screen, as shown in the picture below. Select “Add New” and begin writing your first pillar page.
For a few more examples of great pillar pages, check out the links below:
Start Traveling the World – SeeNic Wander
Best of the Blog – Heath & Alyssa
How to Save Money – Making Sense of Cents
The next thing you should know when setting up your travel blog is what kind of plugins to install.
Let me first explain what a plugin is because Lord knows I had NO idea what they were when I first started blogging. A plugin is kind of like the apps you download for your phone; they give you more features and help your blog run smoother.
There will be many things that your blog’s theme does not include. Plugins are a great way to add certain functions to your blog.
Plugins are extremely easy to install. The first thing to do when installing a new plugin is to click the “Plugin” tab on your left sidebar. Next, choose “Add New” at the top of the page.
Once you’ve made it this far, search for the plugins you wish to install to your travel blog. Below, I’ve included eight of the most important plugins. I recommend searching for and adding these plugins to your blog right away:
- Akismet Anti-Spam: this plugin helps keep spammers away from your site and comments.
- Autoptimize: increases site speed by optimizing code and photos.
- JQuery Pin It Button for Images: this makes it easier for readers to pin your images to Pinterest. When readers pin your blog posts, more people are likely to read it!
- W3 Total Cache: increase your site speed using this plugin. A must for all bloggers.
- MonsterInsights: use MonsterInsights to connect your blog with Google Analytics.
- Yoast SEO: we’ll talk about SEO in a jiffy, but for now, download this plugin. We’ll use it to master SEO and drive lots of readers to your blog.
- Social Warfare: this plugin makes it easy for your readers to share your posts to all of their social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. The more shares your post receives, the better.
- Redirection: when designing your blog, it’ll be important to create pillar pages. Pillar pages act as categories and help your audience navigate your travel blog. In order to link pillar pages to menu options, you’ll want to download and install this plugin.
There are lots of plugins for WordPress blogs, all with different functions and features. As time goes on, you’ll find that you might need to add or delete certain plugins for your blog.
I recommend Googling and researching different plugins before adding them to your site. Be sure that the plugin has positive reviews from other bloggers and that there aren’t any major glitches.
Note: the fewer plugins you have, the better. Having fewer plugins helps speed up your site.
Another crazy, confusing word, huh? Widgets?
Widgets are the items that you place on the sidebars, header, or footer of your website. I create widgets for my most important items like my email marketing freebie opt-in or brief synopsis of who we are (which links to our about me page).
After you get your blog up and running, you’ll want to create widgets to place in the right-hand sidebar (the righthand sidebar has proven to be more effective than the lefthand sidebar!). In order to do this, find the “Appearance” tab and select “Widgets” in the dropdown menu.
Here, you’ll be able to add, delete, and manage all of the widgets on your website. You can add photos, text, custom HTML, a search bar, and so much more.
5. Understand What To Write
Now that your blog is beautifully designed, it’s time to start writing actual content. This is the part that worries a lot of people and drives potential bloggers away from developing their site.
Interestingly enough, this is fool-proof. With the right tricks and knowledge, you’ll be able to write content that WILL drive traffic to your site. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Some bloggers write posts just HOPING that it will attract readers. What many don’t know is that there shouldn’t be any guesswork when you write blog posts.
Writing content isn’t a game of luck, it’s a game of strategy. You WILL win if you use the right strategy. You will develop an audience if you write the correct blog posts and write them with quality in mind.
Before we get into the strategy of what to write, let’s talk about designing your blog posts.
Optimal Travel Blog Post Design
Your goal is to keep your readers happy, to have them return to your travel blog, and to spend more time on your site. In order to do this, you’ll want to create blog posts that are attractive, easy to read, and easy to understand.
Many travel bloggers focus on the number of blog posts. They believe that the more blog posts they have, the better. Unfortunately, those same bloggers tend to lack quality in their work and I can’t stress enough how important it is to write quality blog posts.
With that in mind, here are two important rules to remember when creating blog posts:
I. Attractive Content
Attractive content will keep your readers on your page for longer. Personally, if I ever arrive at a site that is poorly constructed, I typically leave within a few seconds.
One of the easiest ways to keep readers happy and engaged is to use quality photos related to the topic you’re writing about. If you’re lacking quality photos, use free stock images. A few of my favorite stock photo websites include:
I don’t recommend overwhelming your blog post with pictures, but it’s good to break up paragraphs with a photo, video, graph, gif, etc.
II. Easy To Read
Give your readers a break; they didn’t come to your website to decode hieroglyphics or analyze a dissertation. Keep things simple and straightforward.
The best way to get the message across to your readers and keep them engaged is to write short paragraphs that are easy to scan. Most readers won’t read everything you write word for word. Short paragraphs and short sentences help them move through your content easily.
Another way to keep your readers happy is to write your blog posts in the form of lists. Lists are easy to read and scan. They also entice readers to continue reading your post through to the end.
And last, you always want to make sure you’re using proper grammar and spelling. Although you’re not writing a novel, you should be spelling things correctly and using the correct form of you’re or your. An easy way to correct any spelling or grammar mistakes is by downloading Grammarly.
I’ll preface this section by saying this is by far the most important part of blogging. Learning SEO (search engine optimization), will decide whether you’ll be a successful blogger or not.
Remember when I said that travel blogging is not a game of luck, but a game of strategy? That is where SEO comes in. If you can learn SEO and implement what you’ve learned, your blog WILL be successful.
SEO takes out all the guesswork. You’ll no longer wonder if your posts will gain traction with readers. With proper SEO skills and techniques, your blog will get noticed and traffic will come.
So let’s get into it.
First, let’s talk about what SEO is and why it’s so important.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. SEO is a strategy used for writing blog posts to get them ranked on the first page of Google. When your blog post appears on the first page of Google, you’ll be rewarded with lots and lots of traffic.
I. Keyword Research
We’ll start with keyword research.
A keyword (or keyphrase) is a word that people frequently type into the Google search bar. Understanding which keywords are popular will help you understand what to write your blog posts about.
Keyword research is the easiest way to figure out which keywords are popular (being searched for on Google) and which keywords are easy to rank for. Ultimately, you’ll want to choose keywords that have a lot of traffic but are very easy to rank for.
Since you’re likely a new blogger, your domain authority (your search engine ranking score) will be very low, if not zero. Don’t worry about this number right now. It will go up! But because it is low, you’ll want to target keywords that are very easy to rank for. This puts you in the best position to rank at the top of Google.
There are several different SEO tools that help with keyword research including UberSuggest, SEMRush, and Keysearch. We personally use SEMRush because it offers the best keyword analysis and searching tools.
Before I get into how you can use each of these tools (UberSuggest, SEMRush, or Keysearch), understand that your goal at the end of this will be to construct a list of keywords and potential blog post ideas based on the keywords you find. These keyword research tools will tell you exactly what to write about.
Let’s start with the free keyword research tool, UberSuggest. Before you decide to use this tool, remember that this is a free tool for a reason. It’s not accurate compared to other software and it doesn’t offer a lot of helpful tools. However, it is a good place to start.
When you go to UberSuggest, you’ll find this page:
They want you to enter a domain or keyword. So where do we start?
Start by making a list of possible keywords that you might want to target. For example, if you’re a travel blogger who writes about Thailand, your list might look something like this:
- Thailand island hopping
- Northern Thailand
- Things to do in Chiang Mai
- Koh Samui vs. Koh Tao
Next, take this list and individually insert them into the search bar. Below, you can see that I searched for “Thailand island-hopping”.
There are two numbers on this page that we must pay close attention to the search volume and the SEO difficulty.
Ideally, the search volume will be above 100 and the SEO difficulty will be low (or labeled easy). We see in the picture above that the keyword “Thailand island-hopping” has a search volume of 480 viewers per month and the SEO difficulty is marked “Easy”. Considering all of these statistics, “Thailand island-hopping” would be a good keyword to target in a blog post.
To find even more ideas, scroll down to the suggestions section. This is where you’ll find a list of other keywords, the search volumes, and SEO difficulties. Also, consider using the “Related” and “Questions” tabs for more keyword ideas.
Insider tip: if you’re a brand new blogger, it’s okay to target keywords that have a search volume below 100. As long as the SEO difficulty is rated “easy” I wouldn’t rule it out.
Moving right along, I’m going to show you how to use the SEO tool, SEMRush. We currently use SEMRush because it is the most accurate SEO tool on the market. If you’re wondering how to make money as a travel blogger, this is the tool you need to invest in.
Since there are so many different things that SEMRush can do, I’m just going to show you the basics of finding keywords. To start, log in to your SEMRush dashboard. You should see a screen that looks like the picture below.
Notice that I typed in my own URL. If you’ve started blogging and have some blog posts already published, I’d recommend taking a peek at your own analytics and competitors. If you haven’t published any blog posts yet, skip down to the double asterisk.
Now that we’ve typed in our own URL into the search bar, scroll down to where you see “Main Organic Competitors”. This will generate a list of blogs that are similar to your own. In order to quickly find keywords that you could potentially rank on Google for, check out your competitors’ analysis.
For example, my top competitor is MyVIPKIDJourney. When I click on this URL in SEMRush, it brings me to a list of their top organic keywords. As the picture shows below, she has 2.2K organic keywords. Personally, I would check out the list of her organic keywords and her blog posts related to these keywords.
My goal is to find keywords from her list that I could also target. I want to write bigger and better blog posts than the ones she is publishing. We can do that with on-page SEO, which you will learn about next.
**If you’re completely new to the travel blogging world, you might not have any blog posts published yet. No problem! Instead of analyzing your competition (you might not have any competition yet), you’ll use SEMRush to research keywords instead.
Just like UberSuggest, type a keyword into the search bar that you might be interested in writing about. Example: Thailand island hopping.
Look at the picture above and focus in on “Phrase Match Keywords” and “Related Keywords”. SEMRush says that there are 164 phrase match keywords and 364 related keywords. Let’s check out the phrase match keywords first. Click “View full report”.
The keyword magic tool will pop-up, allowing you to see different trends for specific keywords and related keywords. Pay special attention to the search volume and KD%. This will tell you how many people are searching for this keyword and how difficult it is to rank for these specific keywords.
My favorite option is to use the “filters” tool. This helps me narrow down my search and give me a small list of possible keywords to use. In order to use the filters tool, click on “Advanced filters”. For someone just starting out with a travel blog, I recommend targeting keywords with more than 50 searches and a KD% lower than 65%.
The picture below shows you how I used the filter tool to get a condensed list of keywords.
Next, click on the “Related” tab, like the picture below displays. The related tab won’t have the same keyword phrases but it will give you even more ideas for what you can write about.
I recommend keeping a list of possible keywords and using these in your future blog posts.
II. Using Keywords: On-Page SEO
Now that you have a list of possible keywords, it’s time to start writing.
Each blog post will focus on a specific keyword. There are several things you can do to optimize SEO for your blog posts, which will help you rank higher on Google.
First, install the plugin: Yoast SEO. Although you don’t need to follow Yoast SEO’s suggestions to a T, it’ll help you remember where to place your keyword and how often.
Next, be sure to include the exact keyword phrase in your title. If your keyword phrase is “Thailand island hopping”, it should appear exactly like this in your title (of course with other words added, too!).
Next, be sure to include your exact keyword in the first paragraph of your blog post and in the last paragraph of your blog post. Try and include your keyword periodically throughout your blog post, but there is no need to stuff it where it doesn’t belong.
You should also include your keyword in your alt-image titles. If you’re not sure what an alt-image title is, you’ll quickly find out when you upload your first photo to WordPress. The alt text should reflect the keyword and your title should also contain the keyword, as shown in the picture below.
Another place to put your keyword is in the meta description. You can find your meta description on the righthand side of your blog post editor. You’ll need to have Yoast SEO installed in order to see this. Click on “Snippet preview” underneath your focus keyphrase. This is where you can edit your meta description.
III. Build Link Juice
One of the most important things you can do for your travel blog is to build backlinks. A backlink means that another website has linked to your website. The more legitimate backlinks you can get, the better! Especially if you receive a backlink from a prominent website.
But it isn’t that easy. Most websites aren’t just going to link to your site for no reason. You must give them a reason why they should link to you. There are many ways to earn strong backlinks, but the easiest way is by using HARO.
HARO (AKA Help A Reporter Out) is a website that connects journalists with sources for their stories and roundup posts. This is a completely free tool and it is by far the best option for new bloggers.
Sign up with HARO as a source and you’ll start to receive emails thrice daily (5:35am, 12:35pm, 5:35pm EST). These emails are inquiries from journalists about the stories they are writing. Scan these emails as soon as you receive them and if any pertain to you, reply with your best answer. An example of a HARO email inquiry is shown below:
Most of the time these journalists are looking for interesting and short answers to their inquiries, so there is no need to spend hours constructing your answer. In fact, timing is EVERYTHING when it comes to HARO.
Try your best to submit your answers within ten minutes of receiving the email. Competition is fierce when it comes to HARO but if you put the effort in, it will come back to you.
Reply to as many HARO inquiries as possible. If your answers aren’t selected right away, don’t be discouraged. Keep trying!
IV. Long Posts, Quality Content
When it comes to blog posts, the bigger the better. Google LOVES long, meaty blog posts. They want quality content and they want a lot of it.
For each travel blog post that I write, I strive to write 1200+ words, and more if possible.
Focus on what the readers want to hear; targeting and fulfilling user intent is key. The best way I fulfill user intent with my blog posts is by Googling the keyword that I want to use and looking at the posts that already rank for it. These are the blog posts that Google has dubbed “good enough” to be on the first page. That means they are satisfying user intent in some way or another.
So, when you go to write your own post, write better and write more.
Since we’re Googling keywords, you can also check out the “People also ask” and “Related searches” sections.
Take note of these related questions and use them to your advantage when writing your blog post. Try and implement these related questions into your blog post to satisfy user intent.
V. Site Speed
Site speed is important when it comes to ranking on Google. Google favors fast websites.
To improve your site speed, be sure to install the W3 Total Cache plugin and reduce the number of large images on your page.
VI. Bounce Rate + Time On Page
Another factor of SEO is the bounce rate and time spent on page. A bounce rate means how often a reader navigates away from your page. Time spent on page means just that.. how long was the reader on your page.
As bloggers, we want the bounce rate to be low and the time spent on-page to be high. Google favors blogs that meet both of these standards.
In order to decrease the bounce rate, be sure to target user intent in all of your blog posts. Remember to use Google to your advantage and check out what other questions people are asking similar to the one you’re addressing. You can also decrease the bounce rate by adding internal links. Link to your other blog posts that are related to the same topic.
For example, if I am writing about Thailand island hopping, I might mention transportation in Thailand, too. If you have a blog post regarding transportation in Thailand, link to it! This helps keep your bounce rate low.
To increase the time that readers spend on your page, consider adding relevant graphs, Youtube videos, and pictures.
Readers also favor blog posts in the form of lists. This helps them skim the page. If your blog post has large block paragraphs, your readers will likely leave within a few seconds. Keep things simple with short paragraphs in the form of lists (if possible).
VII. Learn MORE About SEO
Although my traffic with Google has skyrocketed over the past several months, I’m not an SEO expert. I would be nowhere without the immensely informational online course, Stupid Simple SEO. I highly recommend signing up for this course because it WILL change your success. It definitely changed mine!
If you can become an expert in SEO, you can turn any travel blog into a money-making business.
If you want to learn more about Stupid Simple SEO and how it helped me immensely grow my business, check out our post here: Stupid Simple SEO Review: Is It Worth It?
6. Understand When To Write
In order to make money as a travel blogger, you’ll want to keep your content current. Writing quality posts should be your aim, but you should also be writing as much as possible.
Not only does Google notice that your blog is staying up-to-date with new content, but your readers will notice, too. Being a consistent source for travel information will keep your readers coming back for more.
There isn’t a magic number when it comes to how often you should be writing blog posts, but when you’re first starting out it’s best to punch out as many quality articles as you can.
I try to stick to 2-3 new blog posts per week.
This might seem difficult and unattainable for some, especially if you’re already working a full-time job. Keep at it and do as much as you can. Remember that the hard work you put in now will really help you down the road.
7. Set Up Google Analytics
Every travel blogger will eventually have to set up Google Analytics, so you might as well do it right away.
Google Analytics keeps track of how much traffic your website is getting, where the traffic is coming from, which pages are being viewed the most, how long users are staying on your page, and so much more. In short, Google Analytics is important.
To set up your account, go to google.com/analytics. Fill in the given details like your website name and URL. You’ll need a Gmail or GSuite email address to create an account with Google Analytics, so if you don’t have one, sign up here.
Once you set up your Google Analytics account, you’ll be given a tracking code. This code will need to be inserted onto your website for configuration. The easiest way to insert this code into your blog is by downloading the plugin: MonsterInsights.
Download this plugin in your plugin manager and select “Activate”.
Next, select “Settings”, which will take you to the MonsterInsights set up page. From here, scroll down until you see “Google Authentication”. This is where you will input the code you received when signing up for Google Analytics.
Hint: Your code should start with UA.
MonsterInsight will ask for permission to access your Google account, which you must grant. After this step, you’ll be ready to use Google Analytics to track the users coming to your website.
8. Start A Travel Blog Email List
Starting an email list is one of the very first things you should do if you want to make money from your travel blog.
One of the biggest mistakes I made with my travel blog was waiting for years to start an email list.
Your email list is one of the most valuable things you can have as a blogger because YOU own it. Not Google. Not Pinterest. YOU. Not to mention, email has stood the test of time. We’ve seen social media platforms and search engines come and go. But email has stuck around for the long haul.
We use ConvertKit to manage our email list. With ConvertKit, we are able to create freebie opt-ins, broadcasts, and sales funnels. We have tried other email marketing companies, like AWeber, but found that the best and easiest platform to use is ConvertKit.
I. Create An Email List Freebie Opt-In
A silly notion that I had when I first started building my email list was, “this will be a piece of cake! Our lives are interesting, people will want to follow us!” HA!
Getting people to hand over their email address is like pulling teeth. The majority of readers won’t just give you their email address for no reason.
So, in order to get readers to sign up for your email list, there must be an incentive. This must be an enticing exchange; something that will be worth it for the reader. Enter freebies!
A freebie is just that.. something you give away to your readers in exchange for their email address.
This could be a guide, a discount code for a product, access to a Facebook group, a list, a budget planner, extra information that might not be readily available to the public, etc. For me, I like to stick to guides and lists, however, I have seen many successful freebie opt-ins that come in all different forms.
To create your freebie, you’ll need to do a bit of brainstorming. What are your readers most interested in? What do they read about and ask you about the most? Start with these questions and work out a few ideas.
For me, my readers often ask about VIPKID, an online English teaching platform that I work for, and how we afford to fly business class.
With these two ideas, I decided to make a guide on “How to Become a Highly Demanded VIPKID Teacher” and a guide on “How to Fly Business Class for the Price of Economy.”
Both of these opt-ins have been successful and I try to place them in each blog post I write (as long as it pertains to the subject I’m writing about).
I used Canva to create my PDF freebie opt-ins, which worked out perfectly. I was able to design them the way I pleased and present the material with clarity.
Freebie opt-ins are the easiest and cheapest way to gain a lot of new email subscribers. I strongly recommend creating at least two freebie opt-ins to start.
For more information about growing your travel blog email list, be sure to read my favorite post by Brandon Gaille: 8 Secrets to Building an Email List to 100,000+ Subscribers.
II. Email Marketing: What To Send Your Email List
You might be wondering what you’re supposed to do with your email list. Believe me. I’ve been there. It actually took me quite a while to hone my email marketing skills and I’m STILL not an expert.
There are several things you can send to your email list: links to your recent blog posts, a discount for a product or service you use (cough cough, affiliate links!), guides, tips, advice, stories, and so much more.
The reason your email list is so important is that these are the readers that want to hear what you have to say. They trust you enough to hand over their email address. Now is the time to build even more trust. Write emails to your email list like you would write an email to your best friend. Ask for opinions. Ask for replies or stories they might have. Interact with them.
My best advice is to sign up for several different email lists from your favorite bloggers. Take note of what they are sending their email list. Understand how they are structuring their lists and what language they are using. What are they supplying the reader? Use this information and design your emails in a similar way.
For more information on what to send your list and how to convert email subscribers into consumers, check out these two killer blog posts:
9. Start A Pinterest Account For Your Travel Blog
One of the quickest ways for new bloggers to drive traffic to their travel blogs is by starting a Pinterest account. Interestingly enough, Pinterest isn’t just for DIY and gardening, you can find information about ANYTHING on Pinterest.
Pinterest works as a visual search engine, very much like Google. One of the main differences is that it is usually much quicker to rank on Pinterest than it is for Google. That is why it is smart to create a Pinterest account for your travel blog.
I. Pinterest For Business
The first thing you’ll do to set up your travel blog Pinterest account is register as a business account. This is completely free and easy. Sign up for your business account here.
When setting up your Pinterest business account, it’ll ask you for your business name. This is where you’ll type in your travel blog name.
Insider tip: it’s best if you type in your travel blog name, followed by the most common topics you cover. For example, check out my Pinterest name in the picture below:
Not only does this help Pinterest users understand what you post about, but it also helps Pinterest rank and categorize your pins.
II. Verify Your Website
Once you have access to your business profile, go to settings.
Click on “Claim” found on the left side of the page. Here you’ll choose “Confirm Website”. A code will appear, which you will copy and paste into your website header.
The header can be found on your website dashboard. If you’re using WordPress like I am, the <head> section is located under “Appearance” in the “Theme Editor” tab. Once in the theme editor tab, click “header.php”.
Once you’ve made it this far, take the code that Pinterest supplied you with and paste it into the header section. As long as it’s between the <head> brackets at the top, it’ll work!
After you have added this code to the <head> section of your website, go back to Pinterest and click “Finish”. Verifying your website makes your Pinterest business page more official and professional. It also allows your readers to click directly to your website from your Pinterest page.
III. Create Boards Relevant To Your Travel Blog Niche
If you aren’t familiar with Pinterest, this next step might seem a bit confusing, but bear with me.
Creating boards for your Pinterest profile is vital. Boards work as categories and they help Pinterest understand what your pins are about. You will sort all of your pins to designated boards (sometimes more than one board at a time, if they fit the category!).
So, in order to create boards, go to your Pinterest profile. After choosing the “Boards” tab, click on the square that says “Create board”.
The boards you create will relate to the topics that you write about in your travel blog. It’s important to only include boards that relate to travel or the things you write about in your blog.
For example, if you are a travel blogger who writes about camping, I don’t recommend adding a “Home Decor” board to your Pinterest profile.
The next task will be naming your boards. Since Pinterest works as a search engine, you’ll want to name your boards using keywords. This helps Pinterest and Pinterest users understand what pins they will find in each board.
Take a peek at a few of my board titles:
Each group board will have a written description in addition to the title. This is a great place to explain what each board is about. Again, using keywords is the best way to expose your board and have it show up in Pinterest searches.
Here is an example of a well-written Pinterest board description:
IV. Create Beautiful Pins
As a blogger using Pinterest to market your blog posts, it’s important to create beautiful pins that intrigue other Pinterest users to click on them.
The easiest way to create beautiful pins is by using the free tool, Canva. Start by signing up for a profile, which requires just your email address or Facebook login.
After signing into your new Canva account, go to the dashboard and click the “Create a design” button. The first option on the dropdown menu will be “Custom dimensions”.
Insert these numbers into the spaces provided: 600 x 900. Next, press “Create design”.
Now that you have a blank 600 x 900 px rectangle in front of you, it’s time to start designing.
First, insert an image that relates to the blog post topic. For example, if my blog post is about Komodo National Park, I’d likely use a picture of Komodo dragons as the background. You can upload an image by clicking on the “Upload” tab on the lefthand side of the page and then selecting, “Upload an image or video”.
It’s vital that the pictures you use for your pins are beautiful and enticing. If you are lacking beautiful photos, I strongly suggest using free stock images from websites like Unsplash, Pexels, or Pixabay.
Next, you’ll create an interesting title for your pin. This should be similar to your blog post title, but don’t be afraid to switch it up a bit to add some flavor. Get creative and use words that captivate Pinterest users. Be sure to use bold letters and make it legible so it’s easy to read.
I typically create 3-5 pins for one single blog post and I advise you to do the same. I mix and match the titles and pictures to see which pin is most successful. However, I wouldn’t recommend pinning all of these at once. Spread these pins out over a few weeks or months so Pinterest won’t think you’re spamming.
Insider tip: I like to look through my favorite travel bloggers’ Pinterest accounts and see which of their pins look the best. Then, I try to mimic their design for my own pins. This has helped me develop and create amazing pins.
V. Sign Up For Tailwind
One of the best things you can invest in for your travel blog is Tailwind, a Pinterest marketing tool. The reason my Pinterest account has grown so quickly is because of this tool, so here’s how it works:
Pinterest favors accounts that are constantly active. They like when accounts post multiple times per day. Since it’s unrealistic to think that we can spend hours and hours on Pinterest each day, Tailwind pins for us to make it appear that we are active.
I preselect the pins I want to add to my boards and Tailwind pins them for me periodically throughout the day. This keeps my followers engaged and satisfied and keeps my numbers growing higher and higher. That’s all there is to it!
So, once you have signed up for Tailwind, it’s time to connect your Pinterest account. Click on “Account Settings” found in the Tailwind dropdown menu on the righthand side. From here, choose “Accounts” where you can change your account details. Add your Pinterest username and your website domain (URL). After entering in these details, you’re ready to start scheduling.
With Tailwind, I typically schedule 50 – 70 pins per day. When you are first getting your Pinterest account up and running, you’ll want to pin 80% of OTHER people’s pins and 20% of your own pins. I also make sure that all the pins I schedule (even if they belong to other people) are vertical and beautiful.
VI. Join Travel Blog Group Boards
The last thing you should know about Pinterest and using it to market your travel blog is how to join and use group boards to your advantage.
You’ve mastered the art of creating boards of your own, but group boards are another story. Group boards work as a community board for multiple Pinterest users. When you share your pins to a group board, it reaches a much larger audience than just your own followers.
Utilize group boards to increase traffic to your pins. Since your pins lead to your travel blog, you’ll see a big jump in traffic.
In order to find group boards, think about the topics that you write about the most. For example, if you write a lot about budget travel, the best thing to do is to join group boards related to budget travel. Find these boards by typing “Budget Travel” into the search function.
A string of pins will generate, but it’s not the pins you want to look at right now. Instead, click the dropdown menu at the top and find “Boards”.
This time a string of boards will generate. Look through these boards to find potential group boards to join. You’ll know it’s a group board when you see a small circle in the corner of the board that displays several different pictures, as shown in the picture below:
Once you’ve located several different group boards related to the topics you write about, check to see if they are accepting new contributors. You can find this information by clicking on the group board and reading the description.
The picture below is a great representation of what MOST group board descriptions look like:
As you can see, this board is accepting new contributors. This is a great place to start.
To join the group board, either follow the directions that are left in the description or if they don’t have any instructions on how to join, simply send the owner of the board a message or comment on one of their recent pins.
Figuring out who owned each group board was a difficult task for me when I first started out. You can find the owner of each group board by clicking on the group members and looking at the first account that shows up on the list. For example, we can tell that the owner of this group board is “Thrifty Nomads”.
Another way to get in contact with the owner of the group board is by going to their blog, finding their email address on the contact page, and sending them a personal email.
I recommend spending a few days finding and applying to hundreds of different group boards. Unfortunately, you won’t be accepted to all group boards, but that is why you should attempt to join as many as you can.
For even more on joining group boards, emailing group board owners, and understanding the virality of each group board, sign up for my free master Pinterest course above!
Insider tip: If you want even MORE information about killing the Pinterest game and getting boatloads of traffic to your website, consider taking this course: Pinterest with Ell. I took this course about a year ago and have been able to utilize everything I learned. The result has been a significant increase in website traffic and even more email subscribers.
10. Understand Affiliate Marketing
Now that you have your blog up and running, it’s time to learn how to actually make money as a travel blogger. You’ve done the dirty work, now comes the reward.
The most common question I get asked is, how can travel bloggers make money? It’s no secret, but many people are unfamiliar with the term affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is when you use links within your blog posts or email newsletters that lead to specific products, services, or companies. When a reader clicks on that link, signs up, or purchases something, you receive a commission at no extra cost to the reader.
Personally, I link to products and services that I use and enjoy (ie. Bluehost, Tailwind, SEMRush, etc). I suggest them to my readers and if they sign up or purchase something, it’s a win-win for both of us. They get an awesome product or service and I get rewarded for referring a friend.
Affiliate programs can be found anywhere and they’re especially lucrative for travel bloggers.
How To Find Affiliate Programs That Fit Your Travel Blog Niche
Finding products to promote is quite easy. For me, I thought about the products and services I use the most. Booking.com, Alaska Air, Airbnb, and many Amazon products quickly came to mind. All of these companies have affiliate programs and you probably didn’t know it!
To find these affiliate programs, go to their website and scroll to the bottom of the page. Look for the word “affiliates” and you’d be surprised at how many companies have these programs readily available for people like you and me.
Most of these programs require a quick online application (name, name of blog, niche, etc) and you’ll likely be accepted within a few days. Some programs require a bit more traffic, so be sure to read the requirements before you apply.
Affiliate Marketing For Your Travel Blog
Affiliate marketing is about trust and purpose. There is no way a blogger could simply add affiliate links to their blog posts and hope their readers click on it. It takes a LOT more than that to convince your readers that the product you recommend is worth it.
Although we’ve made a significant amount of money through affiliate marketing, I am in no way an expert.
11. Sign Up For Ads
Another way to make money as a travel blogger is to sign up for ads. Ads are displayed on your site in exchange for money. Here are a few options for display ads on your travel blog:
A lot of new bloggers sign up for GoogleAdsense. While it can bring in a few extra dollars each month, I feel GoogleAdsense isn’t worth it.
Not only does it slow down your travel blog, but it also gets in the way of your content. When you’re first starting out as a travel blogger, one of your main focuses should be on user satisfaction.
I highly suggest waiting until you’ve reached at least 25,000 sessions per month in order to add advertisements to your site.
Once you’ve reached the coveted 25,000 sessions per month, sign up for MediaVine.
A few tips to remember when signing up for ads:
- Don’t let the ads distract your readers from your content
- Music and/or videos are annoying to readers. Stay away from these kinds of ads
- Pop-ups are also really freaking annoying! They are proven to decrease user satisfaction and drive readers away.
You can do it! One day you’ll reach the 100,000 sessions per month stage. When this happens, you can choose to stay with MediaVine or switch over to AdThrive.
Truly, you can’t go wrong with either MediaVine or AdThrive.
12. Learn As Much As You Can About Travel Blogging
You’re reading this blog post because you want to know how to make money as a travel blogger. Even with all of the tips I’ve given you above, you’ll need to spend as much time as you can researching and learning the ins and outs of this business.
Top Blogging Resources
The Blogging Millionaire Podcast – Brandon Gaille is an expert blogger. Listen to every episode he has. You won’t regret it.
Pinterest with Ell – increase your Pinterest knowledge and strategies with this easy to follow course.
Stupid Simple SEO – the intense course I took on learning and implementing SEO strategies.
Bluehost – our web-hosting platform.
Tailwind – how we drive tons of traffic to our site through Pinterest.
ConvertKit – our email marketing company.
13. Treat Your Travel Blog Like It’s Already A Money-Making Business
Don’t be afraid to invest in your business. Taking courses and purchasing relevant software will help you in the long run. If you’re serious about taking the leap, don’t hold back.
I made this mistake for the first 4 years of running my blog. As soon as I invested in my blog (money AND time), I saw a significant change.
The Wrap-Up: How To Make Money As A Travel Blogger
I said from the start that I wasn’t going to lie to you about how to make money as a travel blogger. And thus far, I’ve been completely truthful. Travel blogging isn’t easy. But it’s definitely worth the time, effort, and struggle.
Now that you know how to make money as a travel blogger and the effort it takes, I hope you take this information and create the most successful travel blog out there.
If you have any more questions about how to make money as a travel blogger, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send me an email.
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