make your travel blog your career

How to Make Your Travel Blog a Career

Part 7 - How to Make Your Travel Blog Your Career

How to Make Your Travel Blog Your Career is the seventh segment in our How to Build a Successful Travel Blog workshop. Take a look at the previous segments first:

This article contains affiliate links, though we only advocate for businesses and brands that we know and trust. Affiliate income helps us continue bringing readers high quality travel content for free.

How to Make Your Travel Blog Your Career

Maintain Momentum

Many new bloggers will fail. It’s a reality. It doesn’t mean they won’t succeed because they’re bad, but they fail because they give up too early. Most bloggers quit after a year because of the effort required for limited results in the short run.

It’s a common occurrence that I see all the time. You’re stoked to start a blog. You have unique ideas and are passionate about inspiring people in their travels. You work your ass off to write great content, ensuring it’s SEO’d well, and invest hours in your social media presence to get more readers to your site. This goes on for weeks and months, yet your page views barely move. You spend hours online, researching best practices but when you implement them, nothing. It feels like you’re putting in all this effort but aren’t seeing anything in return.

I’m not going to beat around the bush – this will happen to you. However, all successful bloggers know that there’s a tipping point. They’ve experienced it themselves. It takes a lot of time and a bit of blind faith that all of this effort is going to pay off. But it will. Stay focused on your goals, ensure your expectations are in check, and keep plugging away.

It’s also easy to burn out. Keeping to an overly rigid content calendar while trying to do every single thing on your site is exhausting, so many bloggers throw in the towel when the going gets tough. Be realistic from the get go, rejig your content schedule, and always be thinking of new articles for your travel blog.

Consider Yourself an Entrepreneur

If you view your travel blog as a pastime, you’re not going to make any meaningful waves. To build a legitimate and profitable blog – and to make your travel blog your career – you need to treat it like a business. Research best practices, experiment with different strategies, and know what your competition is up to. It’s time to stop telling people “I just have a blog” like it’s something trivial. If you want to make this your career, you need to think of yourself as an entrepreneur not simply a blogger, and look for ways to differentiate yourself from the pack.

Be Smart with Your Money

In the early days of travel blogging, many newbies fall into the trap of spending too much money. Getting professional web design, social media support, and expensive hosting can be a serious drain on your wallet. What can you do or learn on your own? If you can’t do it on your own – is it imperative? Will it even be worthwhile at this stage of your blog? Be realistic about what you can and can’t afford and prioritize the hell out of your options before you blog becomes a money pit.

There are so many ‘must have’ tools that “every blogger needs” these days that it can make your head spin. Spending $10 a month might not seem like a lot, but it easily adds up as you sign up for more products and services. While these might make you more efficient or boost your business – be selective. These days, many products geared toward online business offer a trial period or a money back guarantee, so take advantage of that before committing fully. Be strategic, experiment, and analyze everything you spend money on as throwing your cash around blindly is a recipe for disaster.

But Invest in Your Business

Refusing to spend a dime on your site is just as bad. How many successful business do you know that don’t spend money? Not many. The super cliched saying holds true – you gotta spend money to make money. Again – the key is to be strategic with what you do pay for. If you can’t move forward without professional support or need to invest in an online tool that will unlock future income, then go for it. But do your homework first to ensure that it’s imperative and meets your needs.

Upwork and Fiverr are useful sites if you’re looking for professional help at a cost-effective price.

Continue to Pivot

One of the toughest aspects of running your own business is prioritizing what works and eliminating what doesn’t. At least that’s the case for me. I excelled at seeing things objectively and zeroing in on what had the most momentum at my former job, not wasting my time on the stuff that wasn’t getting anywhere. With Departful Media, I inherently have a soft spot for every single strategy and every single piece of content. This makes it difficult to dump what’s not working as it’s all too easy to be in denial: “ I just need to put more time into this for it to reach its potential.” But honestly, it probably won’t ever.

Think of the most successful organizations – many of them followed the energy and continued to refocus their energy into the most viable stream. Your blog is your baby – you’ve poured yourself into it and sacrificed a lot to get it off the ground – but it won’t evolve if you spread it too thin. Always follow the energy and evaluate objectively to identify what’s not working.

Stay Productive

Maintaining productivity can be difficult when you’re on your own and location independent. I’m a bit obsessed with boosting my productivity. I’ve experimented with numerous methods until I found what works best for me. Here are my top tips:

Develop routines

I’m a firm believe that you need to take the thinking out of basic decisions to focus on what’s important. The most successful people rely on their routines so that basic things are not another decision they need to make – whether that’s wearing the same thing every day or eating the same breakfast each morning.

Have the right system

Running four publications and a travel planning business means that I need to be very regimented in order to get things done. I can’t afford to lose momentum through the week on trivial issues and time sucking distractions. I’ve experimented with various productivity systems like time blocking, Pomodoro technique, focused sprints, Getting Things Done, batch tasking, bullet journaling, Kanban – you name it, I’ve tried it.

What works best for me is time blocking (carving out chunks of time to focus on specific projects) while using the Pomodoro technique (timed 25 min intervals + 5 min break, 30 min break after 4 intervals) to ensure that I stay on task. My productivity tends to slump after sticking to the same routine for awhile so I mix it up. When I have a project requiring a concerted effort like launching a new site, I’ll do a sprint – a focused time period like a few days or a week to dedicate solely to this project. This is a great method when you have a strategic initiative that you want to get off the ground but don’t have enough time within your week to make real progress on it with everything else that you’re doing.

At the end of the day, choose the system that works best for you. Don’t follow someone else’s regimen just because they’re successful. Experiment with various productivity systems until you’ve found the one that fits.

Have a clearly defined focus

Managing Departful Media involves running several distinct brands, all with their own content needs, strategic projects, and business development – it’s extremely easy to get overwhelmed. Even with one blog.

If I haven’t clearly defined what I’m working on in advance, I’ll sit down at my desk and be overwhelmed with all the things I need to do, all the things I could do, and all the things I should be doing. I feel that I have so much to do that I do nothing. It’s paralyzing.

Every Sunday, I open up a blank calendar and plot out my week. I list all of the small tasks that I have to get done and choose one or two larger initiatives that I want to accomplish. I used to write every project that I had on the go, but by the week’s end none would be completed.

Narrowing your focus on a couple of things that you can actually achieve will ramp up your productivity considerably. It’s also important to re-evaluate your focus on a recurring basis to ensure you’re focusing on the right things.

Set timelines

Creating timelines for your travel blog is imperative for getting things done in a timely manner. Set realistic timelines for projects like launching your travel blog, implementing your affiliate marketing strategy, and creating your first e-book.

Sticking to timelines can be difficult when you’re working for yourself. It’s all too easy to push something back a week or two as there’s no boss waiting for the final outcome. Suddenly it’s six months later and you’re still not done the project you set out to accomplish.

The key to meeting your own timelines is to align them with your daily routine. If you use time blocking, ensure you’ve blocked sufficient time to make meaningful progress. If you use Getting Things Done, break each task of your project down and assign them a timeline too.

Work to your preferences

There’s no need to work 9 to 5 if you don’t want to. Take advantage of when you work best, where you work best, and what conditions are necessary for your success. If you hit your peak at midnight, work then. If you’re a morning person, then start at the crack of dawn. Aligning your schedule with your personality will make you more successful (and more motivated) than trying (and failing) to fit a standard mold.

Set goals

Goal setting is critical in any business. Setting short and long term goals can help you focus your energy on the things that matter, and provide a yardstick as to whether you’re on track. Your goals should be challenging but achievable, and keep them visible throughout the day to stay motivated. Measure your progress as you go, and tweak your goals as you go.

Give yourself downtime

You’re not a machine. You can’t work sixteen hours a day, at least not sustainably. When I first embarked full time on Departful, I scheduled my week with from 7am to 8pm, six days a week, with very few breaks. And I never stuck to it, which was demoralizing.

Even if you’re totally swamped, taking time away from what you’re working on can be beneficial. Reading a few chapters of a book or going for a walk in the middle of the day can actually enhance your productivity – and is good for your personal wellbeing.

Productivity tools we love

Trello: I’ve been using Trello to map out my tasks and projects for awhile now. I usually lose interest with planning tools shortly after discovering them, but I’m a Trello convert. I have a board for each of our business lines, where I list out the strategic projects for each. I love being able to see everything high level but then drill down into the details. And I’m constantly learning more of Trello’s capabilities and implementing these into my system.

Google Docs: I gave up Microsoft Office when I bought my latest laptop, but thanks to Google’s products, I don’t miss it.  Google Docs is great creating documents, spreadsheets and slide decks, while allowing you to collaborate with others.

Evernote: I use Evernote to keep track of project notes and my content concepts. I love a physical notebook but Ive weaned myself to an online version so that it doesn’t get lost on the shelf. I love that I can store my ideas or add to my article drafts from all of my devices, and can search something from years ago that might be relevant again – instead of digging through old notebooks.

Freshbooks: Accounting isn’t the easiest thing in the world for creatives, but Freshbooks makes it super simple. I use it to generate invoices for consulting work, pay assistants, and manage expenses. It’s intuitive and easy to use – enough said!

Coffitivity: I get distracted easily and work better with white noise. This simple app has three settings that provide coffee shop background noise. I even listen to the app when I’m actually in a coffee shop.

Work on the Road

You’ll like be a digital nomad as you make your travel blog your career. This is a topic that I’ve covered a lot on Departful as most of the time I’m working away from home. Though you may have a homebase where you spend most of your year, you’ll inevitably be out exploring the world from time to time as a travel blogger. And you can’t hit the pause button on your blog – well you can but you risk losing momentum. I’ve written a few articles on digital nomadism (you can read them all here), but I’ll sum up my top advice:

Balance: Have a healthy balance between work life and travel to be successful. It’s not a vacation but don’t work so much that you never take advantage of your new location

Pick the right spot: Selecting somewhere that you can be your most productive is key. Also consider destinations that are cost-effective, have good internet, and have access to local or expat networks.

Stick to a budget: Costs can soar when you’re in a new spot, even one that has a lower cost of living than what you’re used to. You might be eating out more, socializing a lot, traveling to nearby destinations, and signing up for once-in-a-lifetime experiences – all of which adds up.

Stay connected: Traveling around the world certainly has its perks, but it can be lonely. It’s vital to keep up with friends and family back home.

Have the right gear: A laptop is obvious, but consider a portable laptop stand so that you can work at any coffee shop, library or co-working space without slouching. It gets mighty annoying to always be looking for wifi, so you’ll want an unlocked smartphone and a local SIM card wherever you go. A portable charger keeps your devices charged on the go, while a universal plug adapter ensures that you can actually use the plugs wherever you happen to.

Be Patient

Good things take time. A successful travel blog is not going to happen overnight, nor will your efforts to make your travel blog your career. Most of your effort will pay off down the line but it won’t be immediate. Don’t be disheartened by the lack of initial progress and celebrate all wins – both big and small.

How to Make Your Travel Blog Your Career photo courtesy of Unsplash

How to Make Money From Your Travel Blog

How to Make Money from Your Travel Blog

Part 6 - How to Make Money from Your Travel Blog

How to Make Money from Your Travel Blog is the sixth segment in our How to Build a Successful Travel Blog workshop. Take a look at the previous segments first:

This article contains affiliate links, though we only advocate for businesses and brands that we know and trust. Affiliate income helps us continue bringing readers high quality travel content for free.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of how to make money from your travel blog. We covered working with the travel industry in the previous section, so it’s best to look over that first.

A caveat before we get started: don’t get start a travel blog solely as a means to make money. It’ll be painfully obvious to any perspective readers and customers. The bottom line: if people don’t feel invested in what you’re saying, they’re going to click away faster than you can say —.

How to Make Money from Your Travel Blog


One of the first ways travel bloggers make money is from ads, which remain a dominant strategy for many top sites. Google Adwords (add others) makes it super easy to incorporate ads on your site, which are automatically pulled based on your readers’ traffic history or your content. The issue for many travel bloggers is that the overall value from ads isn’t sufficient enough to sustain a blog.

Also, there’s a delicate balance between the number of ads to feature and maintaining a good user experience. The most prominent spaces on your blog have the highest ad value including banner ads above your header and ads within the text – though these are arguably the spots that interrupt (and annoy) your readers. Bringing in video ads will also generate more money for you, but they can be frustrating for visitors.

We have a few strategic ad placements on Departful that generate enough money to cover for our annual hosting, domain renewals, and a few of handy tools. Since launching Prostly, we’ve experimented with eliminating auto generated ads entirely and we only use direct ads with companies that we’re working with.

Many successful blogs sign up for Mediavine once they hit the minimum traffic threshold of 30,000 visitors. Mediavine tends to drive higher ad rates than other systems, meaning more passive income for you. They’re also super helpful, responsive and transparent – making you feel as though you’re working with humans rather than systems.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored posts are paid collaborations between your travel blog and companies within your niche. You use your publication or social networks to showcase a business that’s looking to appeal to your reader demographic. You’ll get many pitches for sponsored content as your site grows, but not all will be legit or appropriate. You’ll want to work with companies that you’ve tried and respect, otherwise you’re doing your readers a disservice and it won’t come off as genuine.

There are several networks that you can join to access sponsored campaigns such as Izea and Tribe. In my experience though, approaching companies that you’ve previously written about or ones that you’ve networked with (either on or offline) works best. This way you’re engaging with businesses that truly align with your travel blog and readers, which is most likely to lead to success for the advertiser.

When pitching companies, ensure that your media kit is well designed, data-driven, and accurate. Provide case studies as examples to demonstrate results from other sponsored content if possible. Have sponsored content as an option on your ‘Work with Me’ page so that companies who find your travel blog are aware.

At the end of the day, sponsored content is a form of advertising. You’re required to be upfront with your readers that you’re receiving financial contribution for this article or social media post.

Freelance Opportunities

Many travel writers use their blogs to generate freelance opportunities. This can involve writing articles for travel companies, generating content for other blogs, selling photography or videos, and managing social media accounts. Don’t minimize your rates to drum up business – you set a precedent that’s difficult to rectify later on, and you hurt the community of freelancers that charge a higher rate based on their experience and expertise.

If you’re interested in freelance work, make it clear what projects you accept. Reach out to large publications to offer your content, making sure to send your best examples that showcase your work. Guest post for a few major publications to increase awareness – and make sure you do a great job as this can lead to paying gigs in the future. Ultimately, be strategic with your blog’s content to bring in leads for your more lucrative contract work.

Affiliate Marketing for Travel Blogs

What is Affiliate Marketing:

If you’re not already familiar with affiliate marketing, allow me to fill you in. Affiliate marketing is an arrangement where a publisher (you) is paid by an advertiser (a company) for driving traffic or sales their way. Content producers are typically paid a small commission every time a reader purchases something from that company after being directed by their content.

Typically bloggers use affiliate text links to drive readers to purchase, but you can also use creative banners and ads that are designed by the advertiser. Affiliate marketing is one of the most effective ways to make money from your travel blog in a passive manner.

Why use Affiliate Marketing in your travel blog:

Some people feel uncomfortable implementing an affiliate strategy. I get it, it can feel disingenuous at first to add something to you site and receive money for promoting it. But this is a classic sales model – think of sales reps getting commission for landing a deal or travel agents receiving commission for sending clients to a resort.

As long as you have good intentions – meaning that you only promote things that you truly support – then affiliate marketing is a way to continue producing content for your readers while getting a small share when they purchase something you’ve recommended. You’ve provided content for free that’s intended to help your fellow travellers out. And I’ve found that readers are quite happy to know that we receive part of a commission when we’ve provided them with stellar content.

That being said – don’t throw affiliate links around like confetti. Your readers will know you’re just trying to make a buck and you’ll end up earning less in the long run. Earn your readers’ trust –  it’s the key to affiliate success.

Starting out with Affiliate Marketing:

Register for free with affiliate networks to start out. Most brands and companies that you’ll want to partner with are managed by large affiliate networks. You can join any and all of them for free, and then apply for any specific advertisers you want to include in your affiliate strategy.

A few of the larger affiliate sites that you should consider joining:

Once approved, browse advertisers (you can narrow down by category) and apply to programs you’re interested in. If you’re approved – great! If not, don’t take it personally. If you’re really bummed that you didn’t make the cut, you can always reach out and provide additional information on your content marketing strategies and how you can benefit their brand.

Don’t apply to every single travel related affiliate program – you won’t use most of them. And if you do, your strategy will be weak. The most successful affiliate marketers focus on a handful of partners that are strongly aligned to their audience. They plan a content strategy (features, interviews, reviews, social media, and email campaigns) for those partners that’s consistent and engaging, while using the affiliate teams from those companies to help them reach new levels of success.

All of the affiliate networks have detailed tutorials on how to incorporate links and creative materials, tips on how to boost your income, and user-friendly reporting so that you can track your affiliate sales in real time. Take advantage of these resources and learn how you can become a more effective affiliate publisher.

And last but not least – you must disclose affiliate relationships in your content. These rules are constantly evolving as affiliate marketing continues to grow. Make sure you meet the minimum standards, though I recommend being very upfront about your usage of affiliate links so that you’re not dinged for non-conformance.

More about Affiliate Marketing:

I’ve only brushed the surface of affiliate marketing for travel blogs. If you’re interested in going deeper and learning successful strategies, I strongly recommend the online course Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. It’s taught by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of the uber popular blog, Making Sense of Cents (her monthly income reports are equally awe-inspiring and failure-feeling-inducing). She makes over $50,000 per month in affiliate marketing (I mean, come on) and offers up her full strategy in the course. There’s a 30-day money back guarantee so you’re protected if you’re not happy (but I know you will be). I’ve done the course and am an affiliate for it (practice what you preach!), so feel free to ask me any questions about whether it’s right for you.

Custom Travel Planning

This is an emerging trend for travel bloggers and entrepreneurs. People are increasingly looking for expertise to help plan their travels, and who better than a source they trust – you! It does take a considerable amount of work, particularly in the beginning as you build an arsenal of travel partners to work with. We launched travel planning and booking services recently and it’s been a popular feature. If you have the opportunity to join a travel network, travel planning can be a terrific way to make money from your travel blog – you already have the experience and a platform to market your services.

It’s important to know what the laws are where you’re based so that you don’t break any rules. For example, Ontario (where we’re based) is regulated by TICO – and it’s illegal to plan or recommend travel without being licensed. If you want to get into travel planning, you’ll like have to join an agency (for a fee) or you could work with an already established company (like us) to help facilitate the actual bookings.

Hosting Trips:

Travel bloggers curating and/or hosting trips is a rising trend. It’s an interesting option that allows travel bloggers to capitalize on the engagement they’ve forged with their audience. But these types of trips will only be successful if a travel blogger has amassed a loyal following and have a clearly defined niche. There are travel companies and agencies (again, like us) that you can partner with who will manage the logistics allowing you to focus on promoting your trips to your readers. We’re currently in the process of creating beer focused trips under our beer & travel publication Prostly.

How to Make Money from Your Travel Blog photo courtesy of Unsplash

How to Work with Travel Companies & Tourism Boards

How to Work with Travel Companies & Tourism Boards

Part 5 - How to Work with Travel Companies & Tourism Boards

How to Work with Travel Companies & Tourism Boards is the fifth segment in our How to Build a Successful Travel Blog workshop. Take a look at the previous segments first:

This article contains affiliate links, though we only advocate for businesses and brands that we know and trust. Affiliate income helps us continue bringing readers high quality travel content for free.

How to Work with Travel Companies & Tourism Boards

This section on how to work with travel companies and tourism boards within the industry coincides with the next section – How to Make Money from Your Travel Blog. This section discusses how to be strategic in connecting with businesses, request collaborations, and get paid for producing content.

‘Work with Me’ Page

You may not think you need a ‘work with me’ page on your travel blog if you’re just starting out. I wouldn’t delay it for too long, even if it’s still a bit premature. It’s helpful in thinking through how you want to work with travel companies from the get go, whether that be advertising, sponsored posts, and social media marketing to name a few (all of these are discussed in greater detail in the next segment: Making Money from your Travel Blog). Make your Work with Me page compelling – you want to hook your potential client as much as your readers. If you can add case studies and testimonials – great! If not, add these in due time.

Though I don’t subscribe to the manifest destiny theory, by putting your aspirations to work with travel companies in writing, it can help channel your energy into looking for opportunities. And if any influential person happens to visit your site, it can only be positive if you have a work with me page, whereas not having one will likely yield diddly squat.

Create a Media Kit

If you’ve been running a travel blog for long enough to have good data, you’re ready to create media kit. A media kit is a brief document that gives companies and advertisers a quick overview of your travel blog. It should be well designed and well written, and include the following information:

  • Description of your blog – perhaps touching on your business models and milestones
  • Breakdown of your target audience demographics (age, location, sex, etc)
  • Performance stats including unique visitors, page views, average time/session, social media followers, email subscribers
  • Case studies from working with brands and companies in the past (if available)

Here’s a handy resource from Melyssa Griffen (which includes a free media kit template).

Connect with Companies

Networking online or IRL is invaluable if you’re looking to make your travel blog a viable business. Most of our work within the industry has come from relationships formed ahead of time. Travel Massive and travel conventions are great for getting face time with potential clients. If you’ve published a lot of content on a specific topic or destination, send an introductory email to the tourism board or relevant companies and ask to be added to their mailing list to stay on top of news and events in your area.

Even if you’re hustling to make connections, sometimes you just have to do the dreaded cold call (or is it cold email now?). Do a Google search for contact information (looking for media representatives), though if you come up empty, try reaching out over social media and requesting their media contact. That’s a strategy that has worked well for us in the past and assures that your email gets lost in the shadows of the internet.

Apply for FAM Trips

For many new travel bloggers, partaking in a FAM (familiarization) trip is a dream come true. And while they’re amazing opportunities to network with other content producers, showcase your skills, and work directly with big travel brands, they’re not all fun and games. The itineraries are often jam-packed as you experience everything your host wants you to, which is insanely cool but extremely tiring at the same time. The expectations of you, whether implied or explicit, can be significant. It’s not unusual for us to spend the day doing the coolest stuff ever and the night working from our hotel room to put out real-time social content and prep time-sensitive posts for our sites.

Don’t Underestimate Your Value

It’s great that you’re keen to work with travel companies and tourism boards – but a caveat. The travel blogging industry has become significantly more professionalized in the last several years, and asking for free one-offs or producing content pro bono takes away from this progress.

Even if you’re brand new, understand that you have value. If you want to be a professional travel blogger, then you need to treat this as a business. I understand that it’s easier said than done (especially for those just starting out and looking for a win) but that’s my feeling on it. I just think you’re worth being compensated if you’re creating great content.

Pitch Travel Companies & Tourism Boards

First, set out your goals and what you’re hoping to accomplish. What are you asking for? Our outreach at Departful is typically to tourism boards or large brands. We don’t often request free hotel nights or day tours, as alluded to above. When reaching out to brands or tourism boards, there are a few things that you want to include:

  • Who you are and why you’re reaching out
  • When you met them or how you got their contact (if applicable)
  • Clear description of what you want from them (many travel bloggers are too ambiguous about this, and you have a much better chance of getting what you want if you actually ask). Don’t beat around the bush – be straight-forward.
  • Types of content that you could create if you work together
  • Examples of content that you’ve written. Best to include various types of articles to showcase your range and ones that have done well (high traffic and/or high social count)
  • Attach a recent version of your media kit
  • Be sincere – they likely receive dozens of pitches a day so make yours personable and unique.

More Tips for Working with Travel Companies:

Be a great publishing partner

Overdeliver, be easy to work with, and make your contact look good to their boss. Essentially, make it a no-brainer to work with you and you’ll be top of mind for opportunities down the road.

Keep the relationship going

So you’ve fulfilled your duties and now you’re moving on. Not so fast. Make sure you’re following the brand and your contact on social media, supporting them by sharing posts you find interesting. Ask to be included on their media mailing list to receive press releases so you can keep up with their progress and tap into their marketing campaigns.

Stay in touch with your contacts

We often produce bonus content (above and beyond what was contracted) and publish it six months or a year after our work with a brand. We’ll reach out to our contact to let them know and ask if there are any specific media campaigns they’re working on that we can help promote. This demonstrates that you’re interested helping them to achieve their own goals, which can pay off down the line when they’re looking for a travel publisher to work with.

How to Work with Travel Companies & Tourism Boards photo courtesy of Unsplash

Travel Blog Goes Viral

How to Ensure Your Travel Blog Goes Viral

Part 4 - How to Ensure Your Travel Blog Goes Viral

How to Ensure Your Travel Blog Goes Viral is the fourth segment in our How to Build a Successful Travel Blog workshop. Take a look at the previous segments first:

This article contains affiliate links, though we only advocate for businesses and brands that we know and trust. Affiliate income helps us continue bringing readers high quality travel content for free.

There’s so much content online competing for your readers’ eyes. You can’t just post something (even if it’s epic) and wait for people to find it. They won’t. To maximize your article’s success, you need a multi-pronged approach consisting of search engine optimization and strategic social media promotion.

Social media can be useful early on, bringing some love (and hopefully readers) to your article shortly after it’s posted. And don’t underestimate the value of social proof – people love what other people love. On the other hand, organic traffic through search engines can bring consistent traffic with little to no maintenance, but can take awhile to pickup. Depending on the competitiveness of our keywords, it can take up to a year to be ranked on Google’s first page. Both strategies are necessary to get more eyes on your content and that your travel blog goes viral.

How to Ensure Your Travel Blog Goes Viral

Start with Your Content

Good content will always win, so start there. Publishing content that connects with readers, whether that be personal, inspiring, or engaging will bring in more readers than bland writing. Lists and infographics tend to do extremely well on social media, as people are intrigued to read more. In depth guides do better in search, when people are looking for that exact topic.

We’ve had success at Departful writing about very popular topics that have a lot of competition (ie. German Beer Festivals) as well as locations that aren’t as prevalent in travel blogs (ie. Utrecht and Stuttgart). It’s harder to rank on the former, though if you do, the payoffs are huge.

Even if you’re relying more on search, ensure that your content is worthy of being shared. Is it visually appealing? Does it contain a unique perspective? A healthy dose of your personality? Content that resonates with readers has a much better chance of being shared, which can have dramatic effects on your page views.

Create Intriguing Headlines

Coming up with a good title is a bit of a mission. You need to balance what sounds great with what ranks well, which can sometimes be at opposite ends of the spectrum. Sure, your site’s content may be top notch but if you’ve got a boring tittle, nobody’s going to give it a chance. On the other hand, focusing exclusively on a snazzy sounding title might inhibit your article’s search engine ranking  – having keywords in the title is something that Google likes a lot.

Some sage advice:

  • Think about a title before you begin writing but be flexible about changing it later on
  • Don’t go with your first title – brainstorm a few (no judgments in brainstorming!)
  • Picture yourself coming across your article – would you read it?
  • Google your topic and see what titles can up first – can you do better?

If you need some headline inspiration, head on over to CopyBlogger or Smartblogger, both amazing at creating captivating blog titles.

Effective SEO for Travel Blogs

Most likely, Google is driving the majority of your traffic from search engines. So I’m talking about it exclusively. Google’s algorithm for ranking content is notoriously mysterious (and constantly evolving), but there is a core set of principles that most travel blogs follow to maximize their organic traffic

Get the right tools

First, download Yoast SEO – a WordPress plug in that automatically tracks your SEO progress as you write your articles. It ensures you have the basics to ensure your article is optimized: keyword usage, alt text for images, meta description, and many other metrics. It’s basically a no-brainer for bloggers. I follow Yoast SEO’s advice for every single article and never publish unless my post gets a ‘green’ SEO rating. A more advanced tool is Screaming Monkey’s SEO Spider. This is a downloadable program that scours your entire site and provides opportunities for SEO improvement.

Be strategic with your keyword

While you’re getting into your article, think about what your keyword will be. This will make it easier to pepper it in naturally throughout your content and save you time at the end. A top resources that all travel bloggers should use is Google Adwords Keyword Planner. Search on several keywords to find out how much search volume and competition they have. Google’s Keyword Planner brings in similarly worded options, which can give you better keywords that you weren’t even thinking of. The goal is to find a keyword that has decent traffic with low competition to maximize your chances of ranking on Google’s first page.

Layer content

When you want to cover a topic in detail, you need to decide whether to write one mega post or break it up into pieces. Both have their pros and cons, but segmenting allows you to layer your content generating increased page views. Including internal links to other articles you’ve published helps from an SEO perspective but also points readers to additional, relevant content.


The time it takes your site to load can make or break you. While Google ranks this, many users will simply give up if they have to wait too long. Keep an eye on your loading time through Google Analytics. Ways to increase your loading time include reducing the size of your images or using fewer photos in your article, and as a last resort: upgrading your hosting plan to include a CDN (Content Delivery Network), which we did last year when we moved to WP-Engine. We also use – a Word Press plug in that compresses images. Here’s a great article with more suggestions on how to improve your site’s speed.

Mobile friendly

This has never been more critical than it is right now. There’s been a massive shift in how people access content with mobile browsing exceeding desktop. We’ve seen this firsthand with our own audience data. Where the vast majority of our content was read on a computer when we launched Departful in 2012, mobile and tablet now make up more than half of our sessions. Having a mobile friendly site is not only important for Google rankings – it’s also necessary so that a sizeable segment of your audience can actually read your content.


Have the proper SSL security (essentially https:// instead of http://) is an increasingly important aspect of any website. Having it not only protects your blog’s visitors, it also sends a signal to readers that you’re legit. And Google really likes sites that have this.


Back in the day, backlinks were seen as one of the best ways to improve you site in the eyes of Google. New bloggers would flock to popular blogs and manually leave comments that linked back to their blog, hoping to get a kickback in rankings. Subsequently, there has been a lot of debate on whether this still works. Google has smartened up by prioritizing the quality of the site linking to yours, so your best bet if pursuing this strategy is to focus on sites that Google deems high quality.

Don’t overdo your keyword

Every version of Google’s search algorithm becomes better at understanding the searcher’s intent and bridging the gap between what they want and the best content for what they’re looking for. So if you want to rank well, you need to offer valuable content. Bloggers no longer need to insert keywords in every sentence in order for an article to do well. Nowadays, it’s better to pepper it in here and there, but also focus on other relevant keywords that you may be able to rank on as well.

Don’t be concise

Long form posts, which is typically defined as over 1,500 words, do better in search engine rankings than shorter articles. Writing a longer article also allows you to incorporate more than one keyword, so that you can take advantage of readers finding your site through other phrases than the one your focusing on.

Focus on high quality

If you’re focused on providing high quality, useful content then you don’t have much to worry about (just make sure you consider speed and mobile optimization). Google has come a long way in understanding content, and luckily gives priority to what it deems as quality content over what’s crap masquerading as useful by an aggressive SEO strategy.

Leverage Social Media

Social media can help bring in page views soon after publishing. A high social count also impacts your Google ranking, so getting your new content out there can help in both the short and long run.

Create a social media checklist for each new post

Create a standard process for social media when you publish a new post to maximize results and ensure consistency. For example:

  • Create 2-3 pins and add them to your Pinterest scheduler
  • Create 1-2 instagram posts and add the link of your latest article to your bio
  • Create 5-10 tweets to go out periodically
  • Create and schedule a Facebook post
  • Write an email to your subscribers with a personal message linking to your new article

Tag relevant accounts

Are you writing about a city or country? Tag the local tourism board. Are you mentioning a specific hotel, tour, restaurant or experience? Tag them too! Think through any group who would be interested in seeing your content as they’re the most likely to share it. Tagging the tourism board in a post on Utrecht paid off when they subsequently shared it resulting in 5,000 page views in 24 hours.

Tap into your network of fellow travel bloggers

You’ve forged relationships with likeminded bloggers, now it’s time to leverage that. Tag them in relevant social media posts or send them a quick note that your new article (that you think they’ll love) is live. This isn’t a one-way street, though. Be a good blogger buddy and consistently share their content in return.

Another strategy that’s worked well for us is to include a link to compatible content of travel bloggers your friendly with (or aspire to be) and let them know that you mentioned them. It’s highly likely that they’ll share your article via their social networks and perhaps return the favour with a valuable link in the future.

Once Your Content Goes Viral:

  • Create a notification on Google Analytics to notify you if your traffic spikes to alert you that one of your articles is gaining traction. This allows you to ride that wave even further.
  • Find out where it’s coming from – and if it’s being shared, engage with those who are spreading the word
  • Add in links within that article to other relevant content – make them large and clickable!
  • Insert a clear call to action and large social buttons at the bottom of the article to promote further sharing
  • Look for opportunities to turn those visitors into subscribers – do you have a pop-up on that landing page? (If no, you better get on that!)
  • Rejoice!

How to Ensure Your Travel Blog Goes Viral photo courtesy of Unsplash

How to Grow Your Travel Blog

How to Grow Your Travel Blog's Audience

Part 3 - How to Grow Your Travel Blog's Audience

How to Grow Your Travel Blog’s Audience is the third segment in our How to Build a Successful Travel Blog workshop. Take a look at the previous segments first:

This article contains affiliate links, though we only advocate for businesses and brands that we know and trust. Affiliate income helps us continue bringing readers high quality travel content for free.

How to Grow Your Travel Blog

Step 1: Start with Your Content

The first way to grow your travel blog’s reach is to publish great content. Here are a number of things to consider when thinking through your conten.

Be authentic

People want to read what you have to say and they follow your blog because they feel connected to you. If you’re not really there to provide value, then you’re wasting everyone’s time, including your own. It’s super obvious to readers when your end-goal isn’t sincere. Being inauthentic is the fastest way to turn readers off.

Consistency is key…

Like with many things, consistency is vital when starting a travel blog. First, as your audience grows, you’ll need ongoing content and a social media presence to keep them engaged or they’ll fall by the wayside. Second, consistency in posting content is a factor measured by Google when determining your search rankings. And third, a content structure keeps you in line and motivates you to continue producing great travel content.

…But be realistic!

One of the biggest mistakes by new bloggers is that they set unrealistic content goals at the onset – like posting daily. We often think that we can do more than we actually can when we start out blogging. You might have a ton of energy and a backlog of articles but both will dry up fast and you’ll be scrambling to stick to your content schedule, meaning you’ll be writing content all the damn time. Pick a posting frequency that will be sustainable in the long run.

An editorial calendar is key to maintaining consistency. It’s also helpful for layering themed content, planning your social media, and keeping you focused on getting content onto your site – sometimes the hardest part is figuring out what to write about. Pushing that out of the equation entirely can keep you on track and grow your travel blog’s reach.

Pick a niche

But travel is my niche, you might be thinking. Not so fast. Travel is a crowded space for blogs, with a small few dominating the pageviews, FAM trips, and brand dollars. While we’re all writing about destinations we think readers should visit, you have to define yourself differently to stand out. For example, Departful provides high quality travel content to millennials who are seeking boundary-pushing travel experiences. Here are a few other examples from some of the largest travel blogs:

Alex in Wanderland: Diving & sustainable travel
Y Travel Blog: Family Travel
Be My Travel Muse: Solo female travel

Giving some thought upfront on what your angle will be will help shape your identity early on and define your target audience. Many new bloggers think that narrowing down will result in less traffic, but as the classic adage goes, you can’t be all things to all people. Better to have a hundred enthusiastic fans than an audience pool of thousands who don’t give a damn about what you have to say.

Mix up your content

Play around with content types to appeal to more readers, which will also help keep things interesting for you. Many bloggers start out writing word-heavy articles and publishing them one by one. Visitors to your blog will gravitate toward different types of content, so switch it up from time to time. Examples of content that you can produce include:

• List articles
• Photo articles
• City / Country guides
• Hotel / Tour features
• Gear / Product reviews
• Infographic
• Videos
• E-Books
• Tutorials
• Podcasts
• Current events
• Link roundups
• Interviews

Some of these will work better in search rankings and bring in organic traffic, while others will be more suited to social media promotion. Test what works and adjust your content plan as needed, but maintain a balance of different content styles to keep it interesting to readers.

Understand your audience

Like in any business, you shouldn’t blindly go about making things you think your audience will want. Any business class will preach the basic fundamental of a successful organization: know your customer. Pushing out content that you think your readers will like without actually knowing who your readers are is the ultimate time waster.

One of your best tools as a travel blogger is Google Analytics. If you’re not already set up, go get it immediately. Google Analytics has a lot of great information about your site’s performance including users & page views, bounce & exit rates, acquisition source, and demographic information on your readers. I won’t attempt to define and explain each metric – but here’s a good guide for setting up Google Analytics and here’s one with definitions for all of the core metrics. Use Google Analytics to understand how many people are visiting your site, where they come from, and what they’re reading. Drive your content decisions from there.

When you’re just starting out and don’t have sufficient data, do a solid review of other travel blogs in your niche and understand what type of content does well for them. I’m certainly not advocating for ripping them off (just don’t) but it will give you an idea of what the most successful travel bloggers consider a priority. Or just ask your readers what they want via social media, comments on your blog, or even through a survey.

Have a target reader

Defining your target audience is an important part of any business. However, don’t generalize your target reader into a faceless group. Think of your target reader as an actual person, maybe someone you know, who you want to appeal to. This will make it easier to make decisions on content and strategy moving forward.

Step 2: Develop a Social Media Strategy

Social media is a game changer for travel blogs, allowing new sites to reach an enormous audience right off the bat. And while there’s so much potential to grow your blog’s audience through social media, it can be downright overwhelming trying to use your platforms effectively to your advantage.

My biggest piece of advice for those embarking on their blogging journey is to focus on mastering one or two platforms first. You can add in others if you think it’s necessary down the line. Ask any travel blogger and they’ll tell you that one social media stream in particular is their most valuable, and where they put the majority of their effort.

In the beginning, it’s far better to funnel your efforts into one or two platforms than dilute it across several. Decide upfront which social media channels you want to be synonymous with your brand. Add in social share methods and counters to your articles so that it’s easy for readers to share content they love.

Here’s a quick overview of each social media channel and why they’re valuable to grow your travel blog.


Facebook has always been a popular way for bloggers to connect with their audience. Bloggers can build a brand page or a group to showcase your content and reach readers. However, Facebook’s new algorithm makes it more difficult for brand pages to get into the feeds of their supporters without spending money on promotional campaigns. And with all the recent data issues, Facebook has been losing support with businesses and brands across every industry.


People who do well on Twitter do really well. For me, Twitter is a valuable social media platform for engaging with other travel writers and businesses in the travel industry. I personally find it the most difficult to build a community from scratch for those who weren’t early adopters or don’t put significant effort into it. Best practices for Twitter include adding photos & videos to your tweets and posting frequently as the feed is ever-evolving. The Everywhereist is a fabulous example of the potential for travel writers on Twitter.


Instagram is an important platform for many travel bloggers as awesome photos and travel go hand in hand. The key with instagram is to use intriguing and high quality photos, and to write engaging captions. If you’re editing your images, use VSCO or A Color Story – never use the preset Instagram filters. Instagram stories are an excellent method for bringing your audience along for the ride.

The caption that follows your instagram image is important – it’s another opportunity to hook your reader with your writing style so don’t be boring! Use the caption to engage your audience by adding in personal details or asking a question to generate a conversation. Hashtags are essential for reaching beyond your followers as well. These often do better when they’re location specific rather than generic hashtags that cover everything. Here’s a good guide to instagram hashtags for travel bloggers.

One of the fundamental goals of social media marketing is to bring readers from the social network to your website. Include a link to your latest article in your bio to encourage your followers to interact with your travel blog.

We use Hootsuite for Instagram automation, which just got so much better. Instagram didn’t allow posting from desktops, meaning Hootsuite ‘pushed’ scheduled content to their mobile app and we had to manually post it in Instagram. Now you can schedule directly from Hootsuite on your laptop, making it much more time efficient as you can just set it and forget it.


Many bloggers dismiss Pinterest as a spot to find craft ideas or paleo recipes. However, for many savvy bloggers Pinterest is a major source of traffic. With over 150 million monthly users (and growing), people are increasingly using Pinterest as a search engine to find unique content. I guarantee that Pinterest will be a key factor in your travel blog’s growth.

Content on Pinterest has a long tail, meaning that it can take some time to pick up but pins can consistently bring in traffic for years. And unlike other social media platforms where engagement is immediate and then drops off completely, a pin can go viral a long time after pinning, making it a great passive strategy for driving readers to your blog’s content.

Register a Pinterest business account and use rich pins, which link back to your website. Create at least one design-forward vertical pin using Canva or PicMonkey for every article that you publish. Join group boards, which include many pinners. Write keyword heavy board and pin descriptions – just as you would in your SEO strategy. Group boards can help boost your pins as you can reach a much larger audience and pin alongside other travel bloggers who will likely share your content. Here’s a round-up of the top Pinterest group boards for travel blogs.

Share the love and pin other peoples’ content as well. This isn’t only common courtesy, it’s a consideration part of Pinterest’s algorithm. You’ll benefit from pinning valuable content that’s relevant to your followers, which Pinterest appreciates.

Continuing to direct visitors to your site takes a lot of time to maintain. We use Tailwind to amplify our Pinterest performance. Tailwind is a pin scheduling tool that makes it easy to pin your own or other peoples’ pins. I use Tailwind for two purposes: scheduling pins (I love Tailwind’s Chrome extension) and for Tribes, which is quite possibly the most ingenious innovation in Pinterest marketing. Tailwind users can join various tribes across many niches, where they routinely share their pins with the tribe. Tribe members pin to their Pinterest boards directly from the tribe, amplifying the reach of everyone’s pins. The beauty of Tailwind tribes, and what’s missing from group boards, is built in accountability: each tribe has rules outlining how many of other members’ pins you’re required to share per pin you share to the tribe. You can get a 30 day trial for Tailwind to test it out – I know you’ll love it.


Video will continue to be big for the travel industry. Many travel blogs have integrated video into their content and used Youtube to reach a larger audience. Video content tends to appeal more to travel companies when working with travel bloggers. But the standards are high, so ensure you’re producing top quality video content if you’re interested in using video to grow your travel blog.

Social Media Tips for Travel Blogs

High quality content – First and foremost, your social media feeds should showcase excellent content. The travel blogging community is crowded and subpar material just won’t cut it. All of your efforts to boost your following is irrelevant if you’re sharing shitty stuff.

Automate & schedule – It’s really time consuming to manage several social media accounts (especially when you have 14 as we do). Tending to your social media channels in real time can take hours, making it difficult to focus on higher priority projects – like making money! Instead, batch process it all. With handy scheduling tools, you can manage your travel blog’s social media presence with a lot less effort. Set it and forget it. We often spend a couple of hours each week setting up all of Departful Media’s social activity using these tools:

  • Hootsuite: This is an amazing product for scheduling your Facebook posts, tweets, and instagrams. Hootsuite’s web-based interface is well-designed and easy to use, and gives you useful data to see what works and what doesn’t.
  • Tailwind: I love this product for Pinterest – super intuitive and the analytics are highly useful. Access to Tribes is reason enough to sign up for Tailwind. Many travel bloggers on Pinterest use Tailwind exclusively with great results.

Quid pro quo: Don’t just pursue your own self-interest when it comes to social media – spread the love. Sharing others people’s content not only makes you a decent person, it generates engagement with your audience, can boost your rankings and legitimacy, and allows you to forge connections with other travel bloggers that can lead to benefits down the road. Okay, you’re setting these channels up to bring attention to your blog, but there’s an automatic cringe reaction when readers come across a social media account that’s so blatantly self-promotional – so there needs to be balance. Ultimately don’t be a social media leech as it won’t have the long term benefits you’re hoping for.

Promotions: Most social networks give you the option of paying to promote your profile and/or post (it’s how they make an insane amount of money every year). Facebook and Instagram (sister companies that have the same promotion set-up) offer excellent ad targeting that can be relatively inexpensive depending on what you’re promoting. We’ve used Facebook ads successfully to launch new publications and products in a cost-effective way. Pinterest rolled out their promoted pin concept awhile back. Though it appears to have potential to drive a lot of traffic (or sales if you have a product), its price point (super expensive!) makes it more relevant to brands looking to reach paying customers. You can decide for yourself – here’s a good overview of Pinterest’s promoted pins.

There’s so much more I could touch on but I’m not going to rewrite the book on this – there are hundreds of useful guides out there on how travel bloggers can master social media, including this great one by Happy to Wander.

E-mail Marketing

A list of email subscribers is one of your most valuable assets. Here’s a group of people who care about what you have to say. The problem, though, is that many bloggers just starting out fail to take advantage of email marketing. A number of resources exist that can help you like MailChimp, Sumo, Opt-in Monster, and ConvertKit.

Promote sign ups

There are a few tactics you can apply if you’re looking to grow your blog’s email list. First, having a sign up field clearly displayed on your site is vital. It shouldn’t just be on the homepage as many people will find your blog through a post and never actually make it to your homepage. Another proven method for getting more email subscribers is a pop up, which can be created using Buzz Sumo or MailChimp.

Be respectful

Given how much garbage we all get in our inboxes each and every day, it’s a bloody miracle when someone gives you their email. So don’t f it up. Every single email should be used as an opportunity to connect with your core fans and contain useful information – not crap. Don’t sign people up without their permission (a huge no-no), don’t send too many emails (best to be upfront with the frequency before they sign up) and never, ever, EVER spam them.

The power of a freebie

Email marketing is one of the best ways to reach your audience and convert them into customers. And many bloggers know this so there are a lot of blogs trying to get their readers to hand over their email addresses. As a result, a lot of would-be subscribers now have newsletter sign-up blindness, and often there has to be something in it for them to be incentivized.

I see a lot of travel blogs offering freebies if readers sign up, but they’re not always that relevant to the content the visitor has landed on (ie. 30 beaches in Croatia when your visitor has found your article on road tripping Canada).

It often takes a long time to create a freebie. You want to go above and beyond the information you have on your blog, so don’t waste your time with something that will only appeal to a handful of people. Consider your top posts to glean what your readers are interested in. Look to see if you can support them or solve a pain point, as they’ll be more inclined to click.

Network with others in your niche

New travel bloggers often avoid networking with more established travel writers – either because they feel inferior or they view them as competition. Let’s stop this now! The travel blogging community is friendly and welcoming (for the most part) so start making connections and working together. This can benefit you in so many ways – likeminded bloggers sharing your content, guest posting opportunities, someone to bounce ideas off of, and an overall support system of encouragement.

Facebook groups for Travel Bloggers

There are thousands of Facebook groups that can help you in your travel blogging journey. Some will be relevant specifically to travel bloggers while others may appeal to bloggers at large. Others will focus on a single aspect of blogging strategy like advertising, affiliate marketing or social media. Do some research (both on Facebook and off) to find relevant groups that will help you grow your travel blog – but be selective. Joining too many just clutters your Facebook feed and is a surefire way to suck more of your time. A few of my favourite groups are The Business of Blogging, Problogger, and Boost Your Blog.

Travel Massive

Travel Massive is a worldwide phenomenon connecting the travel industry. The 120 chapters around the globe bring the community of travel content creators and industry together – both online and offline. Local events are hosted to encourage learning and networking amongst both sides of the travel sector. If your community has a Travel Massive chapter, sign up and start connecting.


Conferences can be an excellent way to learn from successful travel bloggers and connect with others like you. The big travel blogging conferences are Tbex and TravCon. TBex hosts a conference each year in North America, Europe and Asia, and brings an enormous crowd of travel bloggers together.

How to Grow Your Travel Blog photo courtesy of Unsplash

Engaging Travel Writer

How to be an Engaging Travel Writer & Hook Your Readers

Part 2 - How to be an Engaging Travel Writer

This is the second segment in our How to Build a Successful Travel Blog workshop. Read the first section How to Start a Travel Blog.

This article contains affiliate links, though we only advocate for businesses and brands that we know and trust. Affiliate income helps us continue bringing readers high quality travel content for free.

So you’ve got a travel blog set up and are ready to go. Or perhaps you’ve been plowing along with your site for awhile now. Whether you’re super new or have been working on your travel blog for years, we all can improve our writing skills. Taking time to actively work on your writing will help you to become a better travel writer who connects with their audience. 

How to be an Engaging Travel Writer

Active over Passive voice

You’ll want to use an active voice when blogging rather than passive voice whenever you can. What’s the difference you ask? Active: Lauren wrote the guide ‘How to be a Better Travel Writer’. Passive: The ‘How to be a Better Travel Writer’ guide was written by Lauren. Ultimately, the active voice is often more concise and strengthens the sentence. How do you know if you’re writing in the active or passive voice? Yoast SEO has a ‘Readability’ tab that flags if your use of the passive voice is more than 10% of your sentences. Bonus: here is an awesome resource for understanding and mastering the active versus passive voice.

Bring your own voice 

Write like a human! The worst thing you can do with your new platform is to omit your personality. People may find your blog when searching for specific travel content, but they’ll stick around because of you. It can take some time to find your voice but look for ways to weave it into your writing. There’s a balance to showcasing your personality alongside valuable content, but it’s worth keeping top of mind until it becomes natural. When I feel like my article lacks personality, I’ll take a read through Jeff Goins’ article on finding your writing voice.

Don’t try so hard

A lot of new bloggers want to project intelligence and authority so they use big words, winding sentences and an overly formal style. Readers will resonate more with your content if it’s clear and simple, and doesn’t bring on a headache. The best travel bloggers have an approachable writing style that feels more like chatting with a friend than reading a doctoral thesis. Geraldine of the Everywhereist does this exceptionally well. Bottom line: write the way you talk in real life to keep your audience interested in what you have to say.

Focus on providing value

We’ve all come across articles with a catchy headline that are optimized for Google and have about a billion social shares only to be supremely disappointed with the actual content. It’s a bummer. Don’t be one of those people who uses tactics like click-bait and too-good-to-be-true hooks to drive traffic to your blog but provide no benefit to the visitor.

There’s so much content on the internet that as travel bloggers we need to focus on delivering value to our readers first and foremost in order to stand out. Yes, the topic you’re writing on has probably been written about a million times before, but not in your voice and reflecting your unique experience, which might be most important to your reader. Don’t rehash what’s already been done. Instead find a way to bring new information or a different perspective. If you help readers solve a problem or alleviate a pain point, they’ll be yours forever.

Be a good storyteller 

Providing helpful travel advice to readers should be a top goal of your travel blog. But while I suggest you avoid the ‘this is what I did play-by-play’ (as those travel blogs aren’t useful to the vast majority of readers, in my opinion), find a balance between actionable information and your personal experience.

Beginning your articles with an engaging story hooks your reader, making them want to read more of what you have to say. This is a tactic that Departful writer James MacDonald does very well throughout his articles. A travel site that features epic, journalistic-quality storytelling is Roads and Kingdoms. For more in-depth learning, check out the Storytelling for Bloggers course offered by Mike Snowden, a well respected veteran travel writer.

Get creative

Don’t feel pressured to follow what every other travel blogger is doing. Inspiration for content is everywhere. Keep a running list of article ideas on your phone, laptop or notebook. Jot down notes of your experiences as your travel – what are your surroundings? How do you feel being there? What small moments connect you to this place? These details often get lost in the passing of time, but can help a reader feel like they’re actually right there when they read your experiences.


Reviewing your content and ensuring it’s free of errors is an important step that many bloggers don’t spend enough time on. I abhor bad grammar and I instantly lose faith in whatever I’m reading when I come across it. 

There are so many methods and tools to ensure that the content you’re putting out is free of spelling and grammatical errors: read your post backwards (it’s hard to catch your own errors because we automatically put the sentences together in our brains, especially those written by us), have a friend or colleague review it, or install Grammarly – the best online tool for catching grammatical issues.

Contribute to large websites

Guest writing for established travel blogs is an excellent way to get some solid writing experience. Content that’s reviewed by an independent editor who has expertise in generating content that resonates with readers can drastically improve your writing. Leave your ego at the door and take any edits constructively. Look for any patterns that might positively impact your writing down the line. 


Practice, practice, practice. At the risk of boring you with an overused metaphor, your writing ability is like a muscle that needs to be strengthened if you want it to grow. Like many professions, good writers aren’t born, they’re developed. Take Jerry Seinfeld, who, as an aspiring comedian, wrote a joke every day and tracked his progress by marking his calendar with a large X. Follow his wisdom and make writing every single day a habit to become a better writer.

Read everything

Read the dominant blogs in your niche, read popular writers outside of travel, read non-fiction books and novels – just read as much as you can. You’ll pick up on other styles, see what works and what doesn’t, and fill your brain with content ideas for the foreseeable future. 

How to be an Engaging Travel Writer courtesy of Unsplash

How to Start a Travel Blog

How to Start a Travel Blog: A Step by Step Guide to Success

Part 1 - How to Start a Travel Blog

How to Start a Travel Blog is the first segment in our How to Build a Successful Travel Blog workshop. Find the other segments here.

This section lays out exactly what you need to do to build a successful travel blog that resonates with readers. Though this information is intended for newer travel bloggers still getting things off the ground, it’s always worth revisiting the basics. But  if you’ve already got your site up and running and want to get to the more strategic advice, head on over to the next segment.

This article contains affiliate links, though we only advocate for businesses and brands that we know and trust. Affiliate income helps us continue bringing readers high quality travel content for free.

Hello travel bloggers! One of the most common questions I receive from readers is how to start a travel blog. When we set out to launch Departful in 2012, starting a blog was daunting. I thought I was wholly unqualified as someone with zero technical abilities. And even if we did manage to launch the blog, who would even care about what I had to say? To be completely honest, my lack of confidence almost kept me from taking the plunge, but I silenced my inner critic and forged ahead. Bottom line: don’t let your doubts inhibit your action. Creating a travel blog is something you can definitely do.

It can feel overwhelming but let’s put it into perspective. There are over 150 million blogs on the internet, the vast majority of which were built by people who learned on the fly. If they can figure out how to start a blog, so can you.

Although there is a learning curve in launching a blog, it’s much easier than I expected. But physically building a website isn’t the only important consideration of starting a travel blog, though it’s often the quickest. Understanding your motives, defining your goals, and thinking through your brand are also critical steps that can be an afterthought for many new travel bloggers.

How to Start a Travel Blog

Step 1: Choose a name

Thinking up a name for your travel blog is no easy feat and may take several rounds of brainstorming. Be creative and choose a name that represents you, though simplicity is key in my opinion. Overly long or pun-based names often fall short. Be sure you don’t rip off other travel bloggers and you’re best to avoid the same words that come up again and again like nomad, wander, adventurous – they’re overdone. Before committing, think of your blog five years later. Will the name still be relevant?

Step 2: Select your hosting & register your domain

While free domains and hosting exist, take your blog seriously from the start and secure your own URL and independent hosting. If you opt for a free version, your URL will end with, which is an instant credibility destroyer. To seem professional and legitimate, register your own URL and go with a self-hosted option.

We started Departful using Bluehost, which is an excellent option for both new and established blogs. It’s integrated with WordPress so it’s easy to get started. Signing up for Bluehost’s shared hosting service includes a domain, so it’s essentially a one-stop-shop. It also won’t break the bank at $7.99 per month (or use our code to get over 50% off).

We upgraded to WP Engine last year and love it. It’s great for hosting multiple platforms, has excellent technical support, includes SSL security, and features a content delivery network (CDN) that stores all of our images off our sites so that they don’t impact our load times. WP Engine has three plans to choose from (we use the growth plan) and you can get 20% off your first payment by using our code.

Step 3: Set up WordPress & get going

When thinking of how to start a travel blog, your content platform matters a lot. If you want to have a robust and customizable travel blog, WordPress is the only legit player for content management. The versatility of WordPress is far superior to everything else, and you’ll have access to hundreds of free templates and an enormous selection of plug-ins to help get you on your way.

Learning the full ins and outs can take some time, though if I can do it you can too. Practice by playing around with your theme options, appearance settings, pages and posts until you get the hang of it.

There are thousands of Youtube tutorials to help you get started with WordPress. Here’s a step by step video tutorial (it’s over an hour long!) on how to get your Wordpress blog set up. There are a number of free courses that dive deep into starting a blog. ProBlogger’s seven step course for starting a blog is a great place to start.

Step 4: Choose a theme & think through your design

Although WordPress comes with many free theme options, you can also find themes elsewhere. For a more customizable, high-design quality, many travel bloggers opt to purchase a theme kit. Theme Forest is one of the more popular vendors.

As you’re deciding on your theme, think about what you want your brand to be and envision how your ideal website would look. Visit other blogs that you like and those that are popular in your niche, taking note of what you would want to incorporate into your own site. Having a visual of your blog in mind (or actually sketched out) will make it easier to decide on a theme that will align with your vision.

Clean design and easy to navigate makes for a more appealing blog, and helps build legitimacy. We took this seriously when starting Departful and benefited from our significant investment in design as a new blog. I rarely stick around when I visit a poorly designed site, and neither do many potential readers. Visitors to your blog make up their mind on whether to read your content in a fraction of a second, making design decisions critical for success. Don’t let design be an afterthought.

Once you’ve settled on a theme, spend time exploring it to understand its capabilities. Most are highly customizable, allowing you to go above and beyond with your website’s design.

Step 5: Download Plug ins

If you’re going the Wordpress route, you’ll find hundreds of plug-ins (many of which are free) to support you in creating your travel blog. But be careful. You don’t want to clutter your website with plug-ins. They’re built by independent developers for the most part, can slow down your site and cause integration issues when you update your theme.

Our favourite WordPress plug-ins for travel blogs include Yoast SEO (which we’ll talk about in more detail in section 5), Contact Form, Easy Social Shares, Akismet Anti Spam, and WooCommerce. A lot of purchased themes come with recommended plug-ins to help you get started, though you can add more if needed as you go.

Step 6: Content Strategy

Content ready at launch

You’ll want to launch your travel blog with some relevant content published to hit the ground running. When we launched Departful, we had six articles that spanned various travel topics and destinations that were published when the site went live. I also highly recommend that you have a few weeks of draft articles that can be pushed out consistently. You’ll inevitably spend the first bit working out kinks on your site, developing your social media presence, and engaging your audience so having content ready to go will be a huge help.

Launch strategy

There are various strategies that you can deploy when launching your travel blog. Prior to launching Departful, we reached out to a a couple of large travel blogs providing information about us and our imminent launch. As a result, we were written up by a few, which helped boost traffic during our first few weeks – and whose backlinks helped our site from an SEO perspective, which I’ll get to in the 5th segment of this course.

Landing page

This is a strategy that we’ve used for launches of our other blogs with great success. Before you’re ready to launch, set up a landing page where visitors can sign up via email to be notified when your site goes live. To get people excited for your travel blog, start talking about it via social media, guest post on prominent travel blogs, and spread the word amongst other travel bloggers in your network. Once you launch, you’ll already have a group of folks interested in what you have to say, and it also gives you a leg up on your email marketing strategy (more on that in part 3).

Editorial calendar

Create a plan of the content you’ll publish for the first few months. That way when you sit down to write an article, you won’t have to waste time brainstorming a topic. As for frequency of posting, it doesn’t have to be aggressive (like posting every single day) but ensure it’s realistic. Consistency is key to establishing your readers’ expectations and keeping them engaged. I use a Google Calendar for planning out our content over a three month window, which allows us easily move things around if something doesn’t pan out. I also enter in holidays and events that might be relevant to our content strategy as I’m unlikely to remember them in the moment. This way we can take advantage of what people are focused on at that time.

Other Tips for starting a Travel Blog:

Define your goals

If you’re wondering how to start a travel blog, clearly you want to make something of it. Decide on realistic milestones for your first 3/6/12 months and mark your progress. But be realistic about what you can accomplish as you’re just starting out. It’s all too easy to compare yourself with more established travel blogs and travel writers, which can seriously get you down. At Departful we set targets and goals quarterly for traffic, launches and income, and review them on an ongoing basis.

Be prepared to be patient

Starting a blog is like starting a garden. You have to do a lot of upfront work to set the scene for future growth. When you’re first starting out it can feel like a lot of work for little pay off. It can be depressing to spend hours crafting a great article only to be read by a dozen people within the next month. It’s why many bloggers taper off after the first year. They’re bummed that they’re not receiving results and feel that the balance between effort and outcome is way off. But travel content has a long tail. While I’m giving you proven strategies to drive traffic to your travel blog in the following sections, don’t expect a flood of readers to arrive overnight.

Bring yourself into it

Think through your blog’s about page and how it represents you and your business. Ensure it’s welcoming and genuine, and have a photo of yourself and any of your collaborators to establish a personal connection with visitors to your travel blog. Make it easy for your readers to get in touch by including your contact information on your blog.

Business incorporation

Time to get serious for a minute. Determine whether you need to register your travel blog as a business in your home country or trademark your blog name and/or logo. If you’re investing a lot into your travel blog and earning a profit in return, setting yourself up as a sole-proprietorship, partnership, or corporation could be useful. Additionally, trademarking your blog name is worth considering too, not only to ensure that someone doesn’t try to knock it off, but that you’re not accidentally infringing on an existing trademark, which could be a nightmare to rectify down the road.

Ensure you’re doing it for the right reasons

If you’re starting a travel blog solely to travel for free or make tons of money from advertisers, it will be blatantly obvious to your readers and travel companies that you’re trying to work with. I recommend starting a travel blog only if you’re genuinely interested in sharing your experiences and helping others make the most of their own travels. Any other motivation will come off as disingenuous, making it unlikely that you’ll build a true following.

Don’t wait for perfection

Wanting things to be perfect trips up a lot of new bloggers, myself included. Waiting for the stars to align and everything to be in place will either mean that you delay going live for too long or worse yet you never make it at all. The biggest lesson I’ve learned as a blogger and an entrepreneur in general is to get moving and work with the circumstances you’re dealt. Nothing will ever be perfect but often big moves in life are made up of many small steps.

Successful Travel Blog

Travel Blogging Workshop: How to Build a Successful Travel Blog

Hey guys, Lauren here, co-founder of Departful. When we started our travel blog in the summer of 2012 we had a simple goal to bring high-quality, relevant and engaging travel content to readers. I had no idea that it would grow into what that it is today.

Over the past six years I’ve helped build a successful travel blog, worked with dozens of brands, participated in numerous FAM trips, launched peripheral sites, started a travel planning business, and turned Departful into a full-time career. And while that all sounds swell, it hasn’t been an easy ride. I’ve made my fair share of blunders over the years. 

If you’re a travel blogger or looking to start a travel blog in the future, I want to help you. There’s so much information online about building a blog, being location independent, the beauty of passive income, earning more and working less and ultimately pursuing a life that you love. It sounds sublime but it can be downright overwhelming. At least it was for me. 

So I’d like to give you a helping hand to catapult your travel blog into a viable business. I’ll provide insight on how to work with travel companies and brands, generate income from a career you love, and travel the world as you do it. Everything I talk about in this free workshop is something I’ve applied to my own blogs successfully. And while I’m giving you an actionable blueprint for achieving success, it won’t be a cakewalk. You’ll need to put in the work, wait for progress, and continue to pivot your business to remain relevant and maximize revenue. 

This workshop is a behemoth so I’ve broken it down into seven topics to keep it manageable. Here’s an overview of each segment and what’s discussed:

How to Build a Successful Travel Blog

Part 1 – How to Start a Travel Blog

  • Ideal if you haven’t built your travel blog or have just launched
  • How to build your travel blog & what to consider beforehand
  • Best practices when launching a travel blog

Part 2 – How to be an Engaging Travel Writer

  • How to incorporate your own voice
  • How to be an engaging storyteller
  • How to improve your writing skills

Part 3 – How to Grow Your Travel Blog’s Audience

  • How to build authenticity & legitimacy
  • Finding your niche & understanding your audience
  • Reaching your audience through social media & email
  • Pro tips for growing your community

Part 4 – How to Ensure Your Travel Blog Goes Viral

  • How to generate exceptional travel content that your audience will love
  • Leveraging social media
  • Build relationships with leaders in your field
  • A step by step guide to SEO for travel blogs

Part 5 – How to Work with Travel Companies & Tourism Boards

  • How to request free or discounted travel experiences
  • How to participate in FAM trips
  • Tips for being recognized as an excellent publishing partner

Part 6 – How to Make Money from Your Travel Blog

  • A how to guide to affiliate marketing for travel blogs
  • An overview of ads & how to know what’s right for your travel blog
  • How to use your blog to generate freelance opportunities
  • Other revenue streams for your travel blog

Part 7 – How to Make Your Travel Blog a Career

  • How to continue growing your travel blog’s reach
  • How to be successful as a digital nomad

Each segment describes exactly what steps we’ve taken to build a successful travel blog. For each topic, I include links to resources that I’ve found particularly helpful and I know you will too.

You may notice some affiliate links for products and courses throughout the workshop, but I assure you that these are truly things that I’ve found tremendously valuable. These are the tools that have helped to make Departful into the travel company it is today. 

Instead of developing our own fee-based course, we’ve kept it open to everyone but affiliate income generated from partners we know and love helps us keep it free for you. If you’re on the fence about any affiliate product that I discuss, send me a note and I’ll give you my honest feedback based on your circumstances. 

Are you ready to build a successful travel blog and turn it into a viable business? Let’s get started!

Header image courtesy of Unsplash