It’s a lazy afternoon and as usual an idea for a new blog post pops up into my head. But to be fair I haven’t been this excited about writing a new article since I wrote my take on the responsibility we have as travel bloggers. But it’s a question that I often see returning: How to make it as a travel blogger… That’s why I felt the need to write this article and give you my 15 best tips on how to stand out as a travel blogger in 2020!
Cause let’s be fair, ever since people found out you can actually make a living from “going on holiday”, thousands of people are taking a shot at this career. But is it all as easy as some make it out to appear? I will discuss this and how you can actually differentiate yourself from all the rest below.
How to stand out as a travel blogger
Always be professional
Just like with any other job you actually have to take what you’re doing seriously. This might come as a given to most of you but trust me, a lot of people think it’s simply snapping a few photos and that’s that. Now, how to be a professional in this industry?
Create a stunning and unique website
When I first started out I launched my first website on Wix. I thought this would be the easiest solution since I didn’t know anything about coding and Wix has a pretty easy drag and drop policy. But it turns out their way of advertising is pretty sneaky. They promise an easy to design website but once you want to add a simple plugin you will have to pay for every extra plugin separately. And I can tell you, it adds up after a while. Still, it took me over 1,5 year to finally take the leap and transfer all of my blog posts from Wix to WordPress!
I am not going to lie, this entire process took me two weekends of non stop focus and a couple of headaches but in the end it was all worth it!
WordPress works together with several theme builders which makes it easy peasy to create a beautiful website without having to worry about a drag and drop system!
When choosing WordPress there are two things you will need:
- A website host – This is a third party where your domain will be hosted. I went with SiteGround and love their customer service. Starting a website or transferring it can be very stressful and probably about a million questions will pop up in your head. Well the contact service at SiteGround is amazing! So far they have helped me with every single question I had (trust me, there were tons of them!). Cause I don’t know anything really about coding. I can Google it yes, but I never feel safe enough to make serious changes to my website myself. Enter SiteGround!
- A website theme – The website theme that you choose determines the layout of your blog and can be the one thing that makes you stand out as a travel blogger. When you join WordPress you can either choose one of their available free themes or you can crank it up a notch and choose a more original theme. I went with the design of 17th Avenue. Their themes are feminine yet classy. There is not too much frill going on so people can actually focus on the content on your website.
When starting your blog on WordPress or you’re switching over from another platform make sure to go with WordPress.org, not WordPress.com. With the last one you won’t be the actual owner of your own domain. For instance, my website would look like: charlieswanderings.wordpress.com. Not very professional right? So make sure to immediately start off with WordPress.org to avoid this!
When creating and customising your website it’s always a good idea to look to others for inspiration. However, inspiration is not the same as copying. The blogging world is pretty tight and word travels around fast if you simply copy paste all of your ideas from someone else’s website. Plus, I can tell you from first hand experience that it’s not a nice feeling to find out someone pretty much ripped off more than half of your ideas. If you look up to someone, tell them or maybe even ask them for advice. A copy cat never looks good and leaves the original creator with a bad taste in their mouth.
Find your own voice
Writing down a list of ‘Best places to visit’ is for certain a blog post that will get you a lot of clicks. It isn’t however very original. I always try to include a little bit of my personality in my writing. Sometimes even a lot like in this blog post for example! Readers will more likely return if they like your writing style and if they feel a connection when they read one of your articles. This can go from a funny anecdote to a more personal experience. If people just want facts they can simply turn to Google and some boring list pages. People are in need of real experiences and they are often looking to blogs to be marvelled with different and unique point of views.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly fine to write clickbait articles every once in a while. But try to find a balance!
On another note: focus on your grammar and vocabulary! I am not saying you need to write Shakespeare or become the next J.K. Rowling! But you need to make sure that your articles aren’t filled with spelling and grammar mistakes. I know not all of you are native English speakers and neither am I. But practise makes perfect and always make sure to reread your article at least 2 times before you hit publish and you start sharing it!
Focus on photography
There are a ton of blogs out there with excellent content, however when it comes to photography a lot of them also make me shiver a little. For me personally the photography part is equally as important as the content included. A beautiful photo can draw in a reader and make them even more excited to read an article.
When I started out on this journey 2 years ago I didn’t know much about photography to be honest. But I knew it was an important aspect of this career so I wanted to invest in myself and in my future. I researched a lot of camera’s and lenses and for me the most important part at that time was how easy it was to use. A bit like professional photography for dummies you may say. After watching tons and tons of videos on Youtube and reading hundreds of testimonials I decided to go with the Canon EOS 6D MarkII. And I have been extremely happy with my choice ever since. It’s way less expensive than the 5D range and is also an excellent camera for videography. Plus it has WIFI and Bluetooth enabled which makes it possible for you to connect it to the Canon app on your phone and easily take stunning photos of yourself with a tripod!
When it comes to choosing the perfect lens it will mostly depend on the kind of photography that you want to focus on. If your blog focusses on hotels and landscape photography I would suggest to opt for a wide angle lens such as the Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L III USM. But if you want a mix of portrait photography and landscape I would suggest the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM.
I started out with the 24-70mm and used it for all of my photos for the first 2 years! Up until now it is still my favourite one out of all 3 and if I had to recommend just 1 to you it would definitely be this one.
It was only after a while that I decided to invest in a second lens! The Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD, which is amazing for detailed landscape and wildlife photography! A zoom lens like this can create a beautiful distortion in which the background gets drawn to the front of a photo. It creates more depth and brings a photo to life.
Edit your photos
Beautifully edited photos can make you stand out as a travel blogger. While editing photos is an important factor on Instagram it’s also important for your blog! I edit all of my blog photos with my ‘Dream Away with Me‘ preset pack. I simply use 1 specific preset for a blog post and simply apply it to all of the photos that I want to include. This way I can edit 30 different photos in less than 10 minutes! In this short time span I am able to take a single blog post to the next level!
Cause wouldn’t you be more tempted to book a holiday somewhere after seeing a beautiful photo from a certain place?
Write professional emails
When aspiring a career as a travel blogger you will have to work on your penmanship! In the beginning writing emails to brands and hotels always made me extremely nervous. But over time I also found my professional voice and now writing emails simply takes me 5 minutes!
If you’re not sure yet where to start on this I got you covered! As a welcome gift all of my subscribers receive both of my email templates. One that I reserve for partnering with brands, the other one for hotel collaborations!
Have a killer Media Kit
When reaching out to brands, tourism boards, hotels, etc… you have to be prepared and have a professional Media Kit on hand. A simple email just won’t cut it and won’t make you stand out as a travel blogger. You need to show your marketing skills and convince them to hire you for the job!
Now what should a Media Kit look like? A good Media Kit is a representation of your personality while at the same time giving all of the specifics at a glance. Write down what your brand/blog is about, show of your analytics and include previous partners that you’ve worked with.
Canva has some beautiful templates available but most of them are only 2 pages long. This is ideal when you’re handing over your Media Kit at a travel fair but for an email I prefer my 7 page Media Kit which truly showcases all of my work. You can find the Media Kit that I personally use and perfected over the past 2 years here.
How to drive traffic to your travel blog
Let’s start by saying there are a ton of different ways to drive traffic to your blog! But not every blog post will work on every platform! A blog post that ranks high on Google may be something none of your followers on Instagram are interested in. And a blog post that causes your followers to swipe up in a frenzy might tank completely in Google rankings.
It’s therefore important to know your audience. What are they interested in? What knowledge can you provide for them with your blog posts? Let’s start by dividing up the different ways to drive traffic to your blog!
Instagram and blog traffic
My Instagram followers and especially those who watch my Instagram Stories are my most loyal blog readers. They are the ones that will return to my website to actually hear what I have to say. They’ve followed my adventures up close and are curious about my experiences. It is therefore important to take note of the type of blog posts that they are interested in!
Over the past year I was able to not just double but triple my website traffic through Instagram! And all I did was apply these simple tips and tricks!
Google and blog traffic
Google is after detailed and specific information. When writing a blog post try to put yourself in the travellers shoes. What do you research when planning a trip? For instance: my look books will never ever rank high on Google simply because these posts are tailored to my Instagram followers. But a detailed post about a weekend get away to Hrensko will perform well on Google!
Before you start writing a blog post make sure to scope out your competition. Who ranks high on Google for your topic and what did they write about? You must try to always do better and make sure your article offers more information. Otherwise you won’t be able to outrank them! But make sure not to copy! Again the rule goes: be inspired, not a copy cat.
Pinterest and blog traffic
Pinterest isn’t just a platform where you save pretty hairstyles and decor ideas. It is actually an amazing way to drive traffic to your blog when used correctly! Creating unique and beautiful pins is an excellent way to stand out as a travel blogger!
Important to know is that Pinterest is a visual platform at first. The most important thing for you to do is to create a visually attractive pin! I design all of my pins with Canva and create at least 5 to 10 different pins for every article I write.
I tend to notice that more general pins tend to perform better and bring in more traffic!
Some quick Pinterest tips
- Make your photos the main focus point
- Make sure that your pin title is easy to read, don’t use any crazy fonds
- Pinterest is mostly used by women, therefore pastels tend to bring in more traffic
- Your Pinterest description should be SEO proof
- Create different boards on your Pinterest: specific and generic!
Dare to stand out from the crowd
If you want to stand out as a travel blogger you will have to stand out from the crowd! I try to differentiate myself as much as possible but it isn’t always easy. Especially when it comes to Instagram: photos of Bali swings and the pyramids in Egypt will always outrank hidden gems that no one has heard of yet. But you actually don’t need to be big on Instagram to make it as a travel blogger. That’s the beauty of it. Sure, Instagram can be a stepping stone to drive traffic when you’re just starting out but in the end I don’t think it should be your main focus.
And if I had to be completely honest, I am getting really tired of everyone simply replicating each others photos. There is some incredible creative talent to be found on Instagram but a lot of times it gets drowned out by all of the copy cats.
And I am not saying you shouldn’t visit popular places or take photos there to post online. But try to put your own spin to it. It may not always attract the big masses but you will end up with loyal followers who actually like what YOU do.
The same goes for designing pins on Pinterest! Canva offers so many beautiful templates that you can browse through. Your pins should fit you and not be a copy of someone else. Remember those people have done extensive research on what works best for them. This might not be what works best for you. Plus if everyone ends up with the same looking pins none of them will be as successful as the original.
Play on emotions
There are 3 main emotions that will make people invest time in you and your blog: joy, sadness and anger. By this I don’t mean that you should try to make people angry at you, don’t get me wrong :). But write about a topic that invokes one of these three emotions with people. A perfect example is my article about ‘Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries‘. I could have easily just shared the positive side of the sanctuary I visited. But I knew in the back of my head that it would have zero to no impact. I wanted to show the brutal reality. And I knew that if I did that my voice and theirs would be heard by more people.
You can’t play on emotions if you only write travel guides that tick off all the best things to do in a weekend. And while writing such articles may get you some clicks from Google they won’t make you stand out as a travel blogger and attract a loyal audience. You play on emotions by telling your own story. Tell about your own personal experience so people can relate. We’re all human after all, it doesn’t always have to be perfect… as long as your spelling is ;).
Don’t let some people online fool you. Running a travel blog is hard work and it will require you to shift your focus. Over the past 1,5 year I didn’t take any weekend just for myself. Yes, I went on trips… but those are mostly to also gather information to later on write down on my blog. I am sure you’ve stumbled upon the saying that a woman’s brain is like an internet browser with 25 tabs open. Well, make that 65 open tabs when it comes to a travel blogger, any blogger for that matter.
Don’t expect to see results straight away, that’s not how this industry works. You will have to work hard and dedicate your time to this project. That’s why it’s so important to write about something that you love and care about.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t immediately rise to succes! Do you want to know the main reason why some blogs fail? It’s not because the people behind them write bad content but it’s because they give up! These days people want to see an immediate result. if you’re one of those people then I am sorry to say but maybe blogging isn’t for you. Not to discourage you, but creating a successful blog requires dedication, persistence and investment.
You have to invest in yourself to achieve your goal!
And yes, there will be times where you’ll want to throw your laptop to the wall. BUT it will be less frequently as the amount of times that you want to throw your phone through the window because of Instagram. That I can promise you!
Be patient, put in the work and the results will show!
Learn from your own mistakes to become a better travel blogger
When I look back on articles I wrote only two years ago I can’t help but cringe from time to time. Like what the heck was I thinking??? But the most important lesson here is that you can always learn from your mistakes!
My older articles didn’t hold any consistency and were just, well all over the place. I still don’t consider my articles to be an example of literary excellency, but I do think they get better over time! And so will yours! Don’t be discouraged if your first articles don’t get read by hundreds of people. Simply keep going and track down what your audience is interested in!
By keeping score of which blog posts perform well you will have a better idea of what to focus on in the future to make your blog stand out from all the rest!
Connect with your readers to stand out
There are thousands of blogs out there. So what makes yours stand out? The answer is: YOU! People want to hear from you because they trust your knowledge and well they like you as a person. There is no better way to secure that bond than by actually talking to your readers. When someone leaves a thoughtful comment on your website, take the time to respond!
A good way to keep in touch with your most loyal readers is by setting up a newsletter! I host mine on ConvertKit and love their service!
Here comes another big reason why I shifted my focus from my Instagram account to my blog. You don’t control Instagram and to be fair lately the algorithm has been playing up so much that you barely reach 10% of your audience with one post. And what if Instagram all of a sudden decides to shut down? Or your account gets hacked? I know a lot of people that have blog but who don’t focus on creating an email list. This is one of the biggest blogging mistakes you can make! You can read more about all of the other mistakes I made during my first year of blogging here.
On the contrary, an email list is completely yours! And you already know that these people are actually interested in what you have to say!
Community over competition
If you’ve been following me on Instagram you know I swear by this saying! Don’t see standing out as a travel blogger as a competition. See it as way to bring your own voice to the table and be part of a greater community. Cause strength lays in numbers. Over the past few years I have had a ton of questions when it comes to blogging. And it’s because of my friendship with fellow bloggers that I am able to turn to them for such questions.
A great way to start is by checking out different Facebook groups that are specifically curated towards travel bloggers:
- Wandering Women Travel Bloggers
- Female Travel Bloggers
- Follow Me Away Community
- Female Content Creators
- Travel Bloggers Guide to Pinterest
You’ll find a lot of like minded people here and a lot of times there are threads organised for specific questions! Reach out to people and introduce yourself! Tell them what your blog is about and most importantly show interest in theirs!
Being a part of a community won’t make you stand out less, it will actually help you stand out more. Cause the more people in this niche that know about you and your blog the higher the chances that they will share one of your blog posts.
Another important factor is collecting backlinks. These are links on someone else’s website that refer directly back to one of your articles. The more backlinks you receive, the higher you will rank on Google!
And if that isn’t enough, being part of a community is simply a wonderful feeling. I started this blog post before the Corona virus took over the entire world and wasn’t sure if I should include a specific way on how to deal with it. I chose not to cause I want to focus on the positive. By being part of a community you won’t feel like you’re alone in this. At the moment everybody is struggling but it’s truly heartwarming to see fellow bloggers trying to help each other out. This can be from sharing someone’s blog post to showcasing their work to your friends. It’s in desperate times like these that true colours often shine and I have to say, the blogging communities colours are shining brighter than ever.
I hope this post will give you some guidance if you’re just starting out and definitely stay tuned! I am at home for 16 more days (for now) and I have a ton of knowledge that I want to share with you! If you don’t want to miss out on anything make sure to subscribe below!
Also, this post contains affiliate links. This means that if you purchase one of the services or products through my link I make a small commission of this purchase. This way I can keep my blog up and running and continue doing what I love. Always grateful for your support!