Someone recently emailed me asking how to start a travel blog. They wanted to know, can you make money travel blogging? Is blogging a hobby or a career? What steps do I take to become successful? Which companies should I trust? I sometimes take for granted my years of experience in the blogging industry. While I might not be the most famous blogger around, I’ve made enough mistakes to know what works, and what doesn’t. I can tell you that travel blogging isn’t for the feint of heart. It’s hard work. But the memories and experiences you gain drumming up your next post is worth every ounce of stress.

Follow these steps to start a travel blog!

Choose a Blog Name. Research it. Buy the Domain

Once upon a time it was recommended to choose a name with a relevant keyword in it. If your travel blog is going to be solely about Canada, it was recommended to include Canada in there (Hence why my blog’s name is what it is). Nowadays, search engines are smart enough not to rely on something so arbitrary. Think of how many popular blogs / websites are out there with non-relevant keywords in the domain. Smashing Magazine isn’t about Smashing things, it’s about design, development, and web. Yet they’re wildly popular in that industry. Come up with a domain name that’s catchy. Something that rolls of the tongue, and is easily recognizable and memorable.

Then, most importantly, research the ever loving crap out of it. Is there somebody blogging under that name already? Is it too close to another name that could cause people confusion? Are there other sites that appear to be much more established that might make ranking high when users search “Your Cute Blog Name“? If so, that may slow down the speed at which Google starts recognizing you. Don’t just check Google, consider checking out alternative Search Engines too. When you’ve done that. Check out Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Can you use that name to create a consistent branding experience.

Lastly, assuming you’ve done your homework, hop onto a domain registrar like GoDaddy or Namecheap and check to see if the .com is available. While .ca or .net’s and even the new .travel TLD’s (Top Level Domains) are available, Search Engine Optimization best practices says to aim for .com if available. Though really any will do given you publish good content and market it right.

Purchase Hosting for your Travel Blog

Every website needs hosting. While you can setup a blog on something like blogger or live journal, if you want to take blogging serious, you’re going to want to use a self-hosted install of WordPress. Trust me, it’s easier than that just sounded. Buying hosting from a reputable company is key here and will make your life easier in the long run.

What is hosting?

When you type in “www.yourfriendstravelblog.com”, the domain name is being directed to an IP address. This unique identifier is tied to a hosting server somewhere at a large datacenter. Think of it like a computer, because that’s what they really are. When you load that website, there are files that make up that site. HTML CSS, images, perhaps some javascript. All those files are stored on this “computer” and are served to you when you access them via that domain name.

Pricing can vary, but most entry level hosting companies will charge about $4.00 per month up to $30.00 per month. If you enter the big leagues in blogging, you’ll eventually want to go with a VPS (Virtual Private Server) or a Dedicated Server. But you really need to be able to justify it, as they are not cheap.

 

Trusted Travel Blog Hosting Companies

There are countless web hosts out there. You can shop around, but in my experience as a travel blogger and web developer, my best experiences have been with these three companies:

  • HostgatorStarts at $3.95 per month – This company is decent. Not great, but passable. It’s who I’m currently using with I Backpack Canada. Just be warned, their customer service speed has really gone downhill since being bought out by EIG. Nasty wait times if you need a hand.
  • BlueHost – Starts at $5.95 per month – A great starter host for those wanting a bit more support but still keeping things within a tighter budget. Bluehost is used by a large portion of the blogging community.
  • SitegroundStarts at $3.95 per month – Astounding customer service. Super fast, super friendly. My new favourite hosting company that I’ve been recommending to everyone lately.
  • WP Engine – Starts at $29.00 per month – More expensive, but you truly get what you pay for here. I’ve seen semi-slow sites turn into blazing fast sites when migrated onto their server.


(disclaimer: the hosting links above are affiliate links, allowing me to make a small percentage off any sales I send to them. If you don’t want to support me, that’s okay. But you’re going to have to google their names on your own.)

Point your Domain to Your Hosting Account

When you purchased a hosting account, you’ll be given your hosting setup details, including two important unique addresses, called your “NameServers”. You’re going to have to login to your domain registrar account (i.e. GoDaddy or Namecheap) and edit your DNS settings on your-domain-name.com. In that screen you’re going to find two input fields where you can paste each of the unique name server addresses. This instructs your new domain to point all DNS settings, including A records (the record that points your-domain-name.com to the hosting account), MX Records (these control your email for [email protected]) and a few other unneeded DNS settings that you shouldn’t ever need as a blogger.

Once those are saved, it can take upwards of 24 – 48 hours for your domain name to start being directed to your hosting account. Though in my experience it’s rarely over 8 hours, but maybe I’m lucky. Until your domain propagates (i.e. the settings are finished doing their thing) you won’t be able to touch your website without the help of a hosts editor like Gas Mask. I’m not even going to go there, but if you’re advanced enough to edit your hosts file, you probably don’t need this how-to. So it’s better to just wait till your domain is ready.

Setup & Install WordPress

Your Travel blog is going to need a Content Management System (CMS). Something that lets you login and edit posts, and schedule them or publish them. Your posts, images, and content are all stored in a database that is accessible from a fancy screen that looks a bit like Microsoft Word meets… something way sexier than that. There are other blog CMS’s out there, but WordPress is king, as it has the highest adoption rate, largest group of community developers, and a fairly low barrier of entry to it. WP engine comes with WordPress pre-installed, but both Siteground and Hostgator and nearly all other web hosts will require some setup. Don’t worry though, it’s super easy!

Get Help

What many people don’t realize is that Tech Support staff at hosting companies will happily perform this setup for you. So hop on their live chat, ask them to install WordPress on the domain name your-domain-name.com and sit back.

Do it yourself

If you’re more hands on and want to learn how to do this yourself. Just open Cpanel, look for “WordPress” (or Fantastico if your host is ancient), and follow the installation instructions. Login to your-domain-name.com/wp-admin and get blogging

Install a WordPress Theme

Okay so when you go to your-domain-name.com you can now see the ugly black/white/green default wordpress theme. Out of the box, WordPress comes with a couple of basic themes. They aren’t fun. So you’re going to want to change those. WordPress has a free theme repository that allows you to search, test, and install themes, direct from your WordPress Dashboard. While you can easily hire a Web Designer to do this part for you, if you’re on a budget, consider looking for a blog theme that suits you at:

If you’re going to go this route, just be prepared. You’re going to have to be ready to read the theme documentation in order to get your theme setup the way they have it in the demo.

time-to-blog

Time to blog, but what do I write about?

This is the million dollar question. Trust me, I ask that question to myself all the time. If you want to be an SEO whiz, sure you can do research at BuzzSumo and discover which content is hitting the mark with people. But take it from me. If you’re not writing about something you care about. It will be like pulling teeth. Find something you’re passionate about. Camping, culture, food, a destination. Then build post ideas around those topics. You might not win a pulitzer prize with a list style post, but they can really help speed things along. Some post ideas include:


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