So you want to start a travel blog, eh? But you have absolutely no idea where to start. I know how you feel. I felt just like you did not too long ago and having been through the confusion, the ups and the downs, I think I have some pretty good advice to share to save you the pain of learning them the hard way.
So, you've come up with this idea of starting a travel blog. What's the first thing you should do?
1. Choose a Name for your Blog
This is pretty important. Don't forget that whatever name you choose, you will quite frankly be stuck with so make sure it's something you like and that it doesn't restrict you too much. I had great difficulty deciding on a name for my blog but here are the stages I went through to decide.
a) It's always useful to pick a name within your niche. I'm guessing since you're reading this article that you are interested in travel. There are many wanderful (hah) travel words out there that you can incorporate into your blog name.
The ultimate of advice would be to use a word that you haven't seen around in the blogging world before. I'm guessing you want to grow your blog and become big therefore you will need to differentiate your blog from others. Words like 'nomad' and 'wanderer' have been done thousands of times before so best skip those and look for the ones less saturated. Before deciding on my name, I googled 'wanderlust' to see what blogs came up and was surprised to see not too many.
b) Using your name is always a winner. I mean your name is totally unique, right? You can use your full name or just part of it. Not only is it unique, but readers like to connect with the authors so using your name really helps your readers to connect with you more.
c) Don't make your name too restrictive. 'Ella in Africa' for example would restrict my content to Africa. Or 'Ella and Animals' (lol great name) would restrict my content to just animals. So, try to make your name relatively broad. 'Wanderlust' is a state of wanting to travel so that could fit anything travel-related. I just can't really go on about make-up now.
d) Check if your blog name is available! I mean domain name-wise and social media-wise. Imagine if you'd spent hours coming up with a fantastic blog title only to find the .com is taken! That would really suck. Also check your name is available on all social media channels, for the same reason.
2. Self-Hosted or Free-Hosting?
I was put off self-hosting for years. I mean, for starters it costs money. Secondly, it's complicated. What even is hosting?
I've used all the free platforms like FreeWebs (does this even exist anymore?), Weebly (weebwho?), WordPress.org and Blogspot. They are all super restrictive in numerous ways. Firstly, you can never get the website designed how you'd like. You're trapped into using basic templates.
Secondly, your domain name isn't even a .com unless you buy your domain but remain on free hosting... which is weird. Google won't take well to .blogspot.com or similar. Google frowns upon these sites so you're at a disadvantage if you want to work on your SEO. Not only Google but businesses in general may be put off because .blogspot.com or .wordpress.com doesn't look very professional, does it?
I mean, you will get sick of these restrictions later on and then consider a self-hosted option but then it's a mooch switching your site from free-hosting to self-hosting. I've never done this myself but I've heard the horror stories.
So, if you're serious about your travel blog and want to potentially turn it into a business, there should be no question about it, go self-hosting. It doesn't cost that much money but has a lot of benefits.
3. Buy Your Domain Name
I'm assuming at this point that I've convinced you to go self-hosted. Therefore you will now want to purchase that domain name for your blog. It's important that the name of your blog is the same as your domain name, for SEO purposes and to help readers remember your domain. Make your domain name as short and easy as possible and that means refraining from using hyphens because let's be honest, no one will remember to include a hyphen when searching for your blog. You want your domain name to be memorable!
I'm sure you are now wondering how to buy a domain name. There are several websites out there where you can purchase them. I use Namecheap because they're arguably the biggest UK domain company and you can also pay extra with Namecheap to have all your details private such as name and address etc. There are other companies out there but do your research on them all before you make a decision as I've heard bad things about some of them.
Next question is do you go .com, .co.uk, .net or something else. I think you should always go for a .com if you can. These are the best as they are totally universal and can be used worldwide. A .co.uk may give you preference in google's ranking for the UK but you'll not have as good a chance as a .com for targeting other countries. As for .net... what even is a .net?
If you are super serious about your blog, you may want to buy up all domain names relating to your blog to have complete control of the domain and block out others from taking your name. By this I mean you'd buy the .com, .co.uk, .net, .co - everything! This is obviously more expensive but at least you've got control of your domain.
4. Get Set-Up on Your Hosting
After researching different hosting options for a while (to say the least), I settled with Vidahost for around £30 per year. They offered a free domain for a year but by that point I'd already purchased my domain with Name Cheap AND I wasn't sure how much my domain would cost with Vidahost after a year so even if I hadn't purchased my domain yet, I probably still would have got one with Name Cheap.
Vidahost were very helpful on Live Chat. I really hadn't the foggiest with what to do to get my blog set-up and the live chat person kindly offered to install WordPress for me. I accepted and I honestly don't know how she did it but she got it all set-up perfectly for me. Thank you!
My blog was then functional and I could login and customise it.
5. Let's talk themes: Free WordPress Themes Or Paid-For WordPress Themes?
Sooo many people advise you against free WordPress themes, claiming they look messy and unprofessional. Well, guess what? My theme is 100% free and I believe it looks neat and snazzy. So I would definitely advise you to consider free themes. The main downside to them is that you don't get any 'support'. So, if you are struggling with your theme or have a question about it or how to modify it, you're on your own to work it out for yourself. No one will help you. That sounds so sinister, haha.
The other thing with free themes is that it can take longer than paid-for themes for them to look good. My current theme looks very different from how it was when I first installed it. I customised it quite a bit and this was only possible because I have a basic knowledge of CSS and HTML. I would never consider a paid-for theme because I want to know how to code and modify websites myself. But I'm sure many of you aren't into that so much and that's when paid-for themes are easier.
6. Set-Up Your Social Media Accounts
You now have a fully-functioning travel blog that looks pretty, it's time to get set up on social media. Instagram is currently the big-boy. You will want an Instagram account, for sure! Twitter and Facebook are also useful to have. I haven't quite mastered it myself but word on the grapevine is that Pinterest is great for boosting traffic to your blog. Finally, sign up to Bloglovin' as this helps readers stay up-to-date with your blog.
Make sure to have links to all your social channels from your blog and link back to your blog from your social channels. Having a row of icons in your header or sidebar is always a great way to display your social channels on your travel blog.
You're all set-up! Now Write away...
There you go! Your travel blog is now ready to go. All you need to do now is write some kick-ass content for your travel blog. To keep engagement in your blog, it's best to post at least once a week. You may be wondering how to get traffic to your blog. Well that's a whole other topic in itself. Fortunately, I have an article on my number 1 tip for boosting engagement and traffic on your blog.
I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful.