For those of you who want to share your adventures in the form of a travel blog, this is the guide for you. Setting up a travel blog – or any kind of blog – can be a a lot to wrap your brain around initially. I’ve broken down the most basic components from blog to blogger and everything in between. Let me start by saying this early: if you’re already in the midst of a RTW adventure, career break, or otherwise traveling, enjoy your trip before you begin thinking about blogging. Your travels are a critical part of the blog you want to create. With that out of the way, if you’re ready, let’s get started.
Hardware – Not So Important
Blogging has a relatively low cost of technological entry, especially if you’re not doing any kind of serious video editing. Although you probably won’t need to upgrade your computer to one of the best travel laptops, blogging solely from a tablet is going to be comfortably cumbersome at best. A decent desk or laptop that doesn’t smoke when opening up web pages will do fine.
Pick Your Platform Wisely
Most of the blogging you’ll do will take place online, through one of several major platforms available in one of two categories: hosted and self-hosted.
The big difference between the two hosting options is the amount of work, control, and money required of you to blog. Hosted platforms provide you with the server – the hardware running a blog – for free. Going this route limits what you can do with the look of your site and its functionality. For casual bloggers this is usually the preferred method, with those wanting more control using self-hosting (or switching) along the way. Self-hosted blogging requires you to select a hosting company for server space at monthly fees starting around $5-20.
Recommended Hosted Options
- Google Blogger – Simplicity is its best and worst feature.
- WordPress.com – Use the popular WordPress blogging platform without having to worry about hosting.
- Tumblr – I use Tumblr as a compliment to my blog but it’s also a wonderful microblogging service that stands on its own.
- Squarespace ($8 Monthly) – Includes 24/7 customer support blog building and design support.
How To Go Self-Hosted
There are a number of good Web hosts to choose from but I personally recommend Media Temple – what this WordPress-based travel blog is running on right now. Speaking of WordPress, I can easily recommend the blogging platform for its ease of use, customization, and vibrant base of over 70 million users. (Including CNN, TechCrunch, UPS.) WordPress is free and hosting on Media Temple begins at $20 a month.
- Ghost – A very new blogging platform launching soon, developed in part by my friend and previous live chat guest, John O’Nolan. Although I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, I trust his work. Sign up is free if you’re looking to be one of Ghost’s first users.
For a more thorough look at your blogging options, Lifehacker has good rundowns of the best blogging platforms and popular web hosts. Finally, to spice up your blog, DIYthemes, WooThemes, and Genesis Framwork have excellent customizable templates.
Become A Better Blogger
- Writing: Copyblogger, Problogger, The Travel Writer’s Handbook
- Photography: Capturing The Journey, Getting Out Of Auto, Digital Photography School, Take Better Pictures Without Getting A Better Camera
- Video: Tips For Taking Better Travel Video Podcast, Video 101
Personally, I think content is something most new bloggers don’t focus nearly enough on. What grabs people is a combination of the message and the transmission. (This illustrator who let her 4-year old daughter finish her drawings is a wonderful example.)
And of course I also have a website dedicated to teaching you how to become a better travel blogger, aptly named, Travel Blog Advice.
You Now Have A Host, Blog, And Some Words On It – How To Build Audience
To overcome the background Internet static you need your words to get noticed in the places people tend to hang out. Find yourself on Twitter, create a Facebook page plus check out Instagram and YouTube too.
- Know The Best Posting Times – Buffer has compiled a lot of data on the best times to post on social networks.
Make A Bit Of Souvenir Money
There are very few travel bloggers making a living directly from their sites, so while turning your blog into a career may not be on the agenda, you can easily earn some extra beer money.
- Google Adsense – Easy to set up but not a big earner unless targeted carefully on a site with increasing traffic.
- Further Reading: Can You Still Make Money With AdSense?
- Amazon Associates – Earn a small commission any time readers purchase something from Amazon through a link on your blog.
- Further Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Making Money with the Amazon Affiliate Program
- How To Make Money With Your Travel Blog – “Nomadic Matt” Kepnes’ ebook elaborates on the many monetizing options available to bloggers.
- Further Reading: Is Nomadic Matt’s Making Money eBook Worth It?
Additionally, a number of travel companies run affiliate programs that reward you with small commissions for every sale, one of 4 simple ways to make money with your travel blog.
Although blogging’s not explicitly covered in my ebook, The Ultimate Tech Guide For Travelers Version 2.0, if you purchase it now before the end of the month, I’ll extend my 6 months of tech support to include your new travel blog as well. Best of all, it’s on sale right now for $9.99 and comes with your own personal IT consultant. Me.
- Additional Resources – RTW Labs offers WordPress coding support at competitive rates and Travel Blog Success is a personalized mentoring program.
- Count Your Traffic Right – Get to know Google Analytics and if you decide to use WordPress, install Jetpack.
One technical aspect of blogging you shouldn’t neglect is loading time. Flashy slideshows and high-resolution photos can make your travel blog look sexier than Justin Timberlake, but if it takes longer than 400 milliseconds for your site to load, nobody will see it. Today’s Internet users (that’s you!) are impatient so use implement the basic ways to reduce your blog’s loading time.
You’re Going To Die (Sorry) But Your Blog Doesn’t Have To
The amount of shisha I smoke around the world has likely cut decades off my life but that still means I’ll be around for a while. (I’m still holding out for scientists to cure aging or figure out how to download me into the Matrix by then.) In the unlikely event that immortality isn’t cracked before I go off to Stovokor, I have a little plan to keep foXnoMad around for a while. Your travel blog too will contain memories, journals, photos, and intellectual property – making it a good idea to enact a simple after-death plan as well.
- Give Access To Someone You Trust – Create login accounts to your website and hosting provider (if you have one) for a family member or good friend, with some instructions emailed to them on how to proceed if you get hit by a bus. (Ideally, before you get hit by the bus.)
- Legacy Locker – This service automates that process for up to 3 of your online accounts for free.
- CodeGuard ($5 monthly) – Regularly backs up blogs and websites, so your trusted person could download all of your posts and photos from there if needed.
The New York Times recommends several digital death services, most of which (for a few dollars) can keep your travel blog alive for years after you’ve gone to party with Elvis.
There Is No Right Formula
Much of my advice for traveling goes for blogging: do it the way you want, why you want. These are the basics to putting together a travel blog, but missing a key ingredient I can’t supply or begin to quantify. As I mentioned in the beginning, it’s all about you – the one on the adventures. Don’t forget to focus on your travels because a travel blog lives with your experiences and you live for the experiences. Happy blogging.