6 steps to become a successful and profitable travel blogger
If you've got the travel bug, get this guide on how to start and grow a travel blog, plus key ways to earn significant income as a successful travel blogger.
You’re sitting at your desk daydreaming about being on an island somewhere in the south Caribbean.
Just a fun little cliff dive will do.
And when you need a break from waterfalls, your mind takes you on a quick plane ride to a quaint cafe in the middle of a historic European town with cobblestone roads running through it.
Ah, the joys of travel, adventure, and hopping between different cultures.
How do you make traveling while working a reality?
If you’ve ever dreamt about becoming a travel blogger, here’s a reality check -- you can make it happen and get paid to do it, but it isn’t a cakewalk. You have to be willing to put in the hours and hustle to monetize your blog.
Is it worth it? Definitely. Is it as easy as writing a few blog posts and calling it a day? Not quite.
Today, we share with you the realities of being a travel blogger and the steps you need to take to join their ranks as a well-paid traveler.
Let’s get to the important bits first: Just how worth it is becoming a travel blogger?
How much can you make as a travel blogger?
You can make as little as nothing, or you can earn a substantial income as a travel blogger. It all depends on your persistence and having the right monetization plan set up.
After all, the demand for reading travel content online is growing. Digital travel content sees double-digit growth year-over-year.
When you’ve got your foundation properly laid out, you can earn over $3,000 per month, just like these fellow travel bloggers:
Nora earns over $3,000 per month from her The Professional Hobo travel blog. Nora has been traveling full-time since 2007 and has stepped foot on over 55 countries.
At the mid-range, Monica earns $10,000 in monthly income from her The Travel Hack blog, which she started in 2009.
Finally, on the far side of the revenue scale, Matt Kepnes pulls in over $50,000 a month through his Nomadic Matt site. Matt has been trotting the globe since 2006.
Pretty impressive, right?
Don’t worry if a decade of blogging sounds daunting to you. If you continue to publish valuable content regularly, your audience will grow, and so will your love of the craft.
The main takeaway is to build up your stamina for the long-term. If you do, you’ll be miles ahead of the norm, where a whopping 59.3% of bloggers start a blog and then abandon it.
With a bit of perseverance, running your own travel blog can be profitable because the startup and maintenance costs are relatively minimal. Still, some costs to take into consideration are:
Additional folks to help with your production as you grow and hire virtual assistants, freelance writers, and so on
Website maintenance, like hosting and domain registration
Automation and management tools, like your platform or email service
All in all:
You can earn a significant income as a travel blogger with today’s growing demand for digital travel content. So long as you keep up your blog over the long-term, you’ll be successful at it.
As for how to get started, check out our simple, six-step system below.
6 steps to start a travel blog
Step #1. Find a theme based on your travel passion
Your first step is to find an angle based on your travel passion. You don’t have to cover everything travel-related. Instead, narrow in on a niche or theme.
To whittle it down to one travel theme, ask yourself:
What is it about traveling you enjoy the most?
When you travel, what do you gravitate toward most? Is it the people, culture, food, natural environment, or history?
As an example, blogger Dan focuses on traveling solo and capturing the world’s scenic wonders through his professional photography, which is featured in his Dan Flying Solo blog.
Couple Megan McDuffie and Michael van Vliet focus on a completely different theme, and spotlight on their Fresh Off the Grid blog delicious foods and easy recipes you can make while camping and traveling to outdoor destinations.
As you can see, you can get creative while selecting your theme and choose from a wide array of niches within the travel category.
The key is to get specific so you can focus on one niche audience. Once you’ve done that, and only when you’ve settled on a niche, you’re ready for the next step.
Step #2. Research and learn about your niche audience
Once you’ve selected your niche topic, it’s time to conduct market research. This step isn’t optional: market research is vital for understanding your audience and gaining clarity on what they’re interested in.
After all, your goal is to deliver to your blog audience precisely what they want and need. Good business is about solving people’s problems, ideally before they’re aware of those problems.
As for an effective way to conduct your research, start by diving into online forums, discussions, and social media groups to uncover popular points of interest within your topic.
For instance, a quick query for “travel photography” in Reddit pulls up several Subreddit threads within the 2.7 million large online community.
This serves as a great place to glean some useful insights for your blog. You can brainstorm ideas on how to educate and solve some of your audience’s related problems based on what you glean from social communities.
Better yet, take it a step further and join these groups to start engaging with members to learn first-hand what they’re biggest struggles are and how they talk about those struggles.
That way, you can address their needs in your blog articles and provide valuable, educational content to your audience using their own words.
In a nutshell:
The only way you can serve your niche is by getting to know them. Use social communities and one-on-one conversations to dig into people’s problems and find ways that your blog can solve them.
Then, begin writing.
Step #3. Start writing regularly (and imperfectly)
When people ask writers how they produce so much content, the answer is always a little disappointing, but true: we just start writing.
You need to do the same. Because your blog is something you need to keep up over the long-term, don’t let your perfectionism slow you down at the starting line.
Your style, voice, content, formatting, and et cetera will organically develop over time. The important thing is to start writing a blog, not writing it perfectly.
Curious about which topics to cover in your first articles?
Use the info you gathered from your market research and focus on educating your readers about how to overcome their challenges.
The more specific and useful your content is, the better. 57.2% of people who thought the content was meant for someone else claim the content wasn’t useful.
Your first few attempts to write for your audience probably won’t be perfect, but the sooner you get started, the better you’ll become at writing for your niche.
Plus, the more you get to know your audience as you build relationships through your blog, the more you can cater to your readers’ needs, which means the better your content will be.
It’s a nicely self-sustaining cycle that way.
OK, the writing part is the bulk of the work, but if you’re just starting out, you’ll need to do some extra hustle with logistics.
Step #4. Purchase your domain name and choose a blogging platform
Your next step is to purchase your domain name and choose a blogging platform.
To purchase your domain name, check out these top five domain registrars:
Keep in mind, your bigger goal is to monetize your site, so look out for the ability to integrate your blog with a product page, or use an all-in-one platform like Podia, which allows you to manage everything from a streamlined dashboard.
You can check out the platform’s ease of use by signing up for no-obligation free trial, where you’ll find an editor dashboard that has a convenient left-hand editing bar and corresponding real-time updates displayed in the right frame.
Pretty easy to navigate, yeah?
Regardless of the domain registrar and platform you choose, be sure to select those that work best for your budget and business goals over the long-term.
Many hosting packages boast attractively low prices for the first year, but significantly higher premiums once the promotion expires, so it’s worth checking out what your post-discount price will be for the coming years before signing anything.
After all, you’ll want to keep up your travel blog and grow your business over time, and that’s far harder to accomplish if you’re hit with unexpected fees midstride.
Once hosting and domain names are taken care of, it’s time to dig into the fun part of setting up your blog -- the design.
Step #5. Keep a simple design
Keeping with the theme, I’ll say it plainly: Use a simple design for your travel blog.
94% of first impressions are design-related, and 88% of visitors are less likely to come back if they have a bad experience. The more complicated your design is, the more chances you have for something to go wrong.
To keep your visitors coming back, we recommend keeping a clean and simple blog design, which means:
Lots of white space
Easy to navigate
In other words, something like Chris and Rob Taylor’s 2TravelDads site.
By following in Chris and Rob’s footsteps, you’ll create a positive user experience (UX) for your audience, which is essential for building your business.
Design-driven businesses have outperformed the S&P by 228% over the last decade, so keep that in mind as you continue to expand and grow your own.
The big lesson is:
Maintain a simple design for your travel blog that’s easy for your readers to navigate. This will create a great UX for your visitors and strengthen your business growth overall.
Step #6. Upload and publish your blog content
At this stage, it’s time to upload and publish your blog articles.
Since you’ve already written your articles, publishing your posts is the easy part. Depending on your platform, you simply upload your written content in the form field and include a featured image.
Whatever you use, ensure you’re using it consistently. Publishing posts regularly is vital to the success of your blog.
Why? Your readers will get acclimated to anticipating your new content and relying you as the expert on your topic, especially as you accumulate emails and send out announcements about your latest article posts.
As for the nitty-gritty of frequency, bloggers who publish weekly are 2.5x more likely to report “strong results” than those who post monthly or less.
So, make it a habit to maintain a regular posting schedule over time to grow your blog.
Now that you have your blog page all set up, it’s time to grow your audience and start monetizing your site.
Let’s dive into some tactics on how to promote your blog and grow your audience.
How do you grow your blog audience?
#1. Tap into social media
Use social media to publish posts about your travel blog articles and reach new readers.
66% of marketers use blogs in their social media content, so it’s worth using your social platforms to spread the word about each of your published articles.
If you’re wondering which channels to focus on, continue researching your niche market to find out where your target audience hangs out the most.
Most likely, your audience will be on Facebook. 61% of marketers claimed Facebook as the most important channel for the fifth year in a row.
Note, however, that Instagram is on the rise and can make for a great social channel for expanding your travel blog audience, especially because the platform is visually based.
Like with all of your published content, be sure to post regularly, so your audience gets used to hearing from you as the expert on your travel topic. The more followers you accumulate for your content, the greater your industry authority will become.
Of course, getting a little outside help with said industry authority wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.
#2. Guest post on other prominent blogs
Another way to expand your audience reach is to guest post on other blogs that receive more traffic than yours.
It’s an effective way to get in front of a broader related audience, while also contributing your valuable knowledge by forcing you to write for a new audience, so it’s a win-win for both parties.
To guest post, follow five simple steps:
Find relevant blogs to target
Prep your guest post
Send your pitch
Write your guest post
Well-established travel blogs that accept guest posts typically have writing guidelines for you to follow, like Practical Wanderlust’s site.
Note, however, that while guest blogging is a viable strategy and good for building your audience, it's not as easy as it used to be and the return isn’t super impressive.
So, keep in mind this strategy may be a good supplement for audience growth, but it’s not ideal for driving the bulk of your outreach.
As for what is ideal for driving your outreach, check out our next strategy.
#3. Create a lead magnet to attract new readers
Use a lead magnet to entice new readers to opt-in for more of your content and join your email list.
A lead magnet, if you’re unaware, is an incentive you offer your visitors by giving away content for free in exchange for their email address so you can continue to communicate with and warm up your audience to your brand and other paid offers.
Lead magnets come in a wide array of formats, including cheat sheets, templates, assessments, guides, how-tos, checklists, ebooks, whitepapers, video tutorials, and et cetera.
For instance, founder of travel blog Backpacker Banter, Chris, offers a free guide at the top of his travel blog, where subscribers can opt in for his travel planning guide in exchange for their name and email.
By collecting his readers’ contact info and email, Chris can then send subsequent emails to nurture his audience further.
In other words, he can email content that continues to educate his audience, touch on their problems, and help to solve their biggest needs, through more blog articles and paid offers.
Fortunately, the secret to making lead magnets work is pretty simple -- be clear about your offer. When you give your subscribers a good idea of the kind of content they’re signing up for, you can boost your opt-in rate by almost 85%.
Offer a helpful lead magnet to grow your blog audience and nurture them toward your additional valuable content and paid offers through your email list.
Now, let’s look at our last audience-builder for the day.
#4. Use SEO to build organic traffic
Using organic inbound marketing, like search engine optimization (SEO), to attract visitors to your blog is one of the most powerful ways to expand your audience.
Bloggers who earn over $50,000 annually rate unpaid organic Google traffic as the most important marketing channel for their blog.
It’s no wonder when over 50% of traffic to websites in the travel industry comes from search.
What are some search engine optimization tips to use?
Use keyword research - You can try tools like Ahrefs and BuzzSumo to find out which keywords and terms are the most popular. If there is a lot of traffic and low keyword difficulty competing for those terms, that’s a good recipe for an article topic.
Match your content intent with your keywords - It doesn’t matter how many keywords are mentioned in your article if the intent behind those keywords doesn’t match up, so be sure to prioritize the humans behind the keyword volume.
Be mobile-friendly - Searches on mobile have far surpassed desktop searches, which means it’s imperative your blog content is optimized for mobile devices.
An important takeaway is to focus on serving your audience relevant, useful content on your travel blog, which helps you become a credible expert on your topic. As people search for more info, your goal is to rank as the top resource within your travel niche.
OK, with audience growth under your belt, it’s time to leverage your growing audience and earn money from your travel blog.
How do you make money as a travel blogger?
#1. Participate in affiliate marketing programs
Looking for a simple monetization method? Use affiliate marketing to earn income as a travel blogger.
Affiliate marketing, if you need a refresher, is when you promote an outside business’ product or service on your blog and earn a commission for each sale you make on their behalf.
With 20% of publishers’ annual revenue being generated through affiliate marketing, it’s a profitable channel for monetizing your travel blog.
Top travel affiliate programs to consider are:
As you explore affiliate programs, keep in mind anything you promote should align with your brand and serve your audience (are you noticing a theme?).
After all, you’re doing all this work to build your credibility as a trusted resource, so it’s best to protect the credibility and loyalty that you’ve grown with the same audience-first approach to monetization.
The same is true for the next monetization method, as well.
#2. Partner with related brands
Another way to get paid as a travel blogger is by partnering with complementary brands.
Similar to affiliate marketing, in a brand partnership, you also promote an outside business’ product or service on your blog.
Rather than earning a commission on each sale, you earn income based on an agreement between you and your brand partner, which means the expectations and pay levels vary.
For a frame of reference, Matthew’s travel blog overall pulled in over $250,000 in 2018.
Brands can pay you for a wide variety of travel-related gigs from guest posting to taking over their Instagram account to going on an all-expense-covered trip to one of their destinations.
To find brand partnerships, you can follow these five simple steps:
Reach out to brands that share your audience
Create content within a set timeframe
Understand the expectations
Be true to your brand (even if it means turning down freebies)
Build a relationship with the brand
Note that partnerships aren’t usually available for newcomers in an industry -- they’re often reserved for influencers -- so while this is one of the most lucrative ways to monetize, it’s also one of the hardest to land.
Fortunately, ads and sponsored posts are far more beginner-friendly.
#3. Use paid ads and sponsored posts
Another way to earn revenue through your travel blog is to use paid ads or sponsored posts.
Because your SEO is your most powerful way to attract organic visitors, we recommend using Google AdSense if you’re going this route. Google AdSense naturally aligns with your SEO tactics and complies with most adblocking suites' “acceptable ads” policies.
How does it work?
Basically, advertisers pay Google AdSense to show relevant ads on your blog pages that complement your content. Ads are displayed as text-only, image-only, or text and image ads.
Here’s an example of text and image ads displayed in one of A Broken Backpack’s travel blog articles.
In exchange for the ad being displayed on your site, you get paid, though the amount varies depending on these factors:
Your blog’s traffic volume
The type of traffic
The number of advertisers competing in your niche
The type of content published on your blog
The position of your ads
Paid ads come with a fair warning, however. 92% of online ads aren’t even noticed, and 64% say ads today are annoying or intrusive, so you may not want to rely on paid ads alone.
Another way to drive revenue to your blog site is through sponsored articles, where an outside entity pays you to include a mention of their product or service on your blog.
For instance, successful travel blogger, Raphael Alexander, dedicated an entire article on his Journey Wonders blog to his post sponsor Tep Wireless.
It’s important to note it’s a legal requirement to include a disclosure for any paid sponsored content on your blog, which Raphael does at the end of his post.
While you can earn a significant amount from sponsored posts, this one also comes with a caveat -- 54% of your readers don’t trust sponsored content, and 57% of readers prefer you run banners ads instead of sponsored articles.
If paid ads and sponsored articles don’t sound ideal to you, our final tactic is a more trusted way to monetize your travel site.
#4. Sell digital products online
You can also sell digital products on your own website, such as online courses and ebooks, to earn a significant income from your travel blog.
Creating online courses and publishing ebooks are great examples of how you can share your travel expertise while pulling in revenue, but don't just take my word for it. Let's look at some examples.
First up is Taylor Jackson, who sells his Make Money with Your Travel and Landscape Photography online course for $90, where he teaches students how to sell travel and landscape photography.
Another example is Nomadic Matt’s series of online travel courses, which teach his audience how to follow in his footsteps and become a successful travel writer, blogger, photographer, and vlogger.
Nomadic Matt also sells a wide selection of travel budget and tips ebooks directly on his site, including The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking ebook.
Online courses and ebooks aren’t your only option, though.
You can create other info products to sell, like guides, mini-courses, bootcamps, audiobooks, video tutorials, or even flashcards. The main ingredient, as ever, is to provide something of educational value.
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As you can (hopefully) see, you have a variety of options when it comes to selling digital products to your blog audience.
As always, offer your audience valuable solutions to their problems regardless of the format you decide to go with, and you’re as good as gold.
Your destinations and blog audience await your arrival
Getting paid to work while traveling is definitely doable. If you have dreams of exploring the world, you can become a full-time travel blogger and earn a significant income with these tips.
Let’s recap it for you:
Income levels for travel bloggers vary from zero to thousands of dollars per month, depending on how much effort and consistency you put toward your blog.
To start your own travel blog, find a theme based on your travel passion and conduct market research to learn more about your niche audience.
Once you begin to write regularly, you’ll have a consistent flow of content to publish, which means you’re ready to purchase your domain name. Choose a blogging platform that allows for a simple design when you’re shopping around.
After designing your blog site, upload and publish your articles regularly.
To grow your audience, use social media, guest post, create a lead magnet, or use SEO tactics.
Four ways to earn income as a travel blogger include affiliate marketing programs, brand partnerships, paid ads and sponsored posts, and selling digital products.
Ready to become a paid blogger and live the nomadic life?
Safe travels -- the world awaits.