In the last year I’ve focused a lot more energy on promoting my travel blog in my local region. I was lucky enough to do an article for the Killarney Advertiser on the TBEX Ireland event and to be interviewed by journalist Deirdre Walsh on her Talkabout show on Radio Kerry, the podcast of which is available here.
I’m blessed that so many people have kindly commented on that interview although a few of the comments are followed by a long silence and the questions What is a blog? What is a travel blog? In this blog post, I hope to demystify the cyberspace realm of blogging, give tips on how to start a travel blog, and examine the role of travel blogs in the travel industry.
What is a travel blog?
A blog is a type of website which is updated regularly in the form of posts. These posts can be stories and/or snippets of information, reviews, photographs, images, podcasts and other types of content which can be uploaded online.
More often than not, a blog is written from the perspective of one person or a couple/small group, although large companies are including blogs as part of their main website to explain products/services in more detail and to attract internet traffic to their main website, with Zurich Life’s Cost of Education blog the best example of such a strategy. A travel blog is simply a blog where the entire focus is on the world of travel.
A blogger is a person who writes blogs…right?
Correct…sort of. A blogger is someone who creates a blog, regularly uploads content to that blog and subsequently publishes it as a post. Blogging is a multimedia endeavour, involving more than just writing which is why bloggers are often called Content Creators. Content is King is the most popular phrase in a blogger’s lexicon and most bloggers use a mix of content in their posts.
A vlogger is a blogger who posts their content as video logs, with YouTube as the most popular platform used.
Blogging doesn’t stop with publishing a post as most bloggers market their posts using social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter etc.) and engage in online discussions to promote it further. Many bloggers sell products on their site and some are lucky enough to be invited to events as paid speakers.
Along with Content Creators, bloggers are often called Social Influencers, Digital Influencers and Digital Nomads. Having been influenced by traditional print journalism and travel literature I consider myself an observer bearing witness to places, people and their stories, and subsequently curating that experience in the form of a blog.
How to start a travel blog
- Firstly, have something meaningful to write about. If you want to stand out from the crowd then focus on a niche (i.e. the travel topic which you’re an expert on or passionate about). Popular travel blog niches include adventure travel, culinary/food travel, travelling with children. There’s no such thing as a narrow niche. My niche is the storytelling approach to the cultural and historical aspect of destinations and I still get readers. Trust me, there are people out there in cyberspace who have the same interest and passion as you. You’ll never be alone on the internet!
- Study SEO. Surely a typo for CEO? No, SEO is Search Engine Optimisation and is the ability to create and manage a website so that it ranks well on search engines. Attention is the currency of the internet so if you want to appear on page 1 of a Google search then learning and applying SEO is essential.
- Choose a blogging platform. A blogging platform is a service which enables you to store and publish your content. Popular blogging platforms include WordPress.com, WordPress.org, Joomla, and Tumblr. Decide what you want from your blog and how your needs are met by the blogging platform companies.
- Choose a domain name which reflects your content. A domain name is basically part of your blog’s website address. For example, the domain name of Arrivals Hall is arrivalshall.com. Domain name matters a lot for SEO…which is why you should study SEO before setting up your site. Blogging platforms will assist with the technical aspects of domain name set-up.
- Create the blog using the blogging platform chosen. Create pages on your blog to give readers a background to you and your content. The following pages are essential for travel blogging:
- About Me/Contact
- Link your social media to your blog to promote the site and posts.
- If you want to take blogging seriously then ensure your blogging platform has a statistics facility. If not, attach Google Analytics to your blog. Beware, some blogging platforms don’t allow you to attach Google Analytics unless you pay a high subscription fee.
Frequently Asked Questions about blogs and blogging
Do you have to be rich to start a travel blog?
It depends on your definition of rich! Money will buy you everything including the services of a professional website designer and digital marketing expert. For DIY bloggers, setting up a domain name and a basic blog should cost no more than €50 per annum on most blogging platforms.
Does a travel blog have to be written in English?
If you want to make money, write it in the language of your target audience. If it’s a hobby blog, write it in whatever language you feel like expressing yourself in. In order to rank well on China’s Baidu search engine your site will have to be in a Chinese.
Do you have to have a qualification in computers/IT to create and manage a blog?
Neither I nor any blogger I know has an IT qualification. If you want to monetise your blog then a marketing qualification would be an advantage. I find the following bloggers are excellent for keeping up to date with developments in the blogging, social media and IT world: Neil Patel, Brian Dean at Backlinko, Arfa Nazeer at SheMeansBlogging and Moss Clement at Moss Media. Moz offer SEO solutions but also have a good SEO learning centre.
What challenges does a travel blogger face?
The same challenge every blogger faces…getting attention to build an audience. The internet is full of cats and Kardashians so competing with them for an appearance on Google page 1 is the Holy Grail of blogging. I’ve never actively courted attention in my pre-blog life so managing the attention my blog has both attracted and requires has been a learning curve.
Challenges aside, blogging is empowering individuals by giving them a voice. Blogging empowers their audience by delivering relatable content. Blogging empowers businesses by increasing their market reach. According to Killarney-based digital marketer, Anthony Keogh of SiliconIrish, “Once Google opens the world of opportunities it gives anyone, anywhere a chance to write about their travel experience online and with a little online marketing know-how, you could reach an audience you couldn’t imagine you would”.
Role of blogs in the travel and tourism industry
Travel blogs are an effective digital marketing tool for travel industry businesses by directing internet traffic to their websites and thus increasing bookings/sales opportunities. Travel blogs can equally inspire travel to a region which is why tourism authorities are increasingly working in partnership with travel bloggers.
But most of all, the internet has empowered customers to research and buy independently. Statista’s research shows a considerable year-on-year growth in online travel sales. By engaging with travel bloggers the travel industry is simply adapting to the changing environment it’s presented with.