Many long-time followers will know that Eternal Expat wasn’t my first foray into blogging. I started and stopped several blogs before finally understanding how to turn a blog into a full-time business and growing Eternal Expat into what it is today.
I think it’s so important to know that you will make mistakes.
But it’s what you learn from them that can help you make your blog even better. That, and continuing on even when you make those mistakes.
However, it’s also very valuable to avoid some mistakes and instead learn from those that came before you (and made loads of mistakes).
This post is a collection of mistakes that 10 other bloggers have made along the way and how in turn, figuring out these things has helped them earn a living from their blogs.
Have a Plan
Bruna of I Heart Brazil mentions what I think is one of the most important things about starting a new travel blog, the importance of making a plan.
In the blogging world, SEO is essential – no doubt about it.
However, if you don’t have goals, a marketing plan, and a success metric for every single post, chances are you are slowing your business down.
I hadn’t set my (realistic) goals for my main blog when I started it out, and I only noticed the difference it makes when I started a second website and did it from the beginning.
It’s a game-changer in terms of traffic if you know what you’re doing and why.
Start an Email List
Nicola of See Nic Wander says that starting an email list is one of the most important things to do as a new travel blogger.
Building a solid email list is one of the most valuable assets a blogger can have.
There are a few reasons why you should start an email list from the very beginning. Your first readers will likely be your friends and family.
They will want to hear your updates and see what progress you’re making on your blog, so give them a way to sign up for your list so they can follow along.
Having followers on social media is great, but you are at the mercy of the social media platform. If a platform changes its algorithm or even disappears, you could lose your contact point with those followers.
Email isn’t going anywhere, so you’ll always have a way to reach your readers.
As you grow your blog and your email list, remember to give as much value as you can to your email subscribers.
These people are your biggest fans! They chose to get your emails in their inbox, after all.
These are the people who will share your blog with their friends, who will buy your products and ebooks, and who will engage with you most authentically.
Make a point to take care of your list by giving them travel tips, inspiration, freebies, or whatever it is you do best! Take good care of your subscribers and they will take care of you.
Start Slow with Social Media
Julien of Cultures Traveled reckons you should take it slow and master one social media channel at a time.
When you’re starting a travel blog, it’s easy to get lost trying to keep up with all the social media channels.
While it’s good advice to claim your new blog name on each social media channel you intend to use in the future, it’s also good advice to focus on one at a time.
Become a master of each platform and eventually, you’ll be able to juggle all of them.
Write About Where You Live
Efia of Effy Talks Life makes a great point about not even needing to travel to run a travel blog. You never know how many people are interested in traveling to your home town or city. That’s exactly how I grew this blog to where it is today!
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a travel blogger is not writing about where you live.
There’s a lot of perceived pressure to talk about some exotic destination (thanks Instagram!). But the truth is to someone out there, where you live may well be somewhere they’ve never been before and are dying to learn more about.
I saw this in full force when I shared a weekend itinerary for Glasgow that’s now become one of the most popular posts on my site!
Organize Your Affiliate Links from the Start
Callan Wienberg manages two travel blogs, Once in a Lifetime Journey and Singapore n Beyond, so he’s been around the block a time or two when it comes to starting a travel blog.
One of the major moneymakers for any travel blogger is affiliate marketing.
This means that we provide links to tried and tested companies for things like tours or accommodation and then we get a certain percentage of the booking fee.
When things start picking up and the bookings start flowing in, you really want to know which links are being clicked so that you can know which articles are your best sellers.
So the biggest tip is to always track your affiliate links right from the beginning by adding labels to the end of links.
Our rule of thumb is to place our article and the affiliate to the label.
For example, if we are linking to Banyan Tree Hotel in our Best Hotels in Seoul article, we put “SEOULSTAY-BANYAN” to our label.
So when you look at your report you can see if this specific hotel has been booked, how many times and how much you made.
You can also see if the article is getting a lot of clicks and then replicate it in other articles for more sales. If you don’t do this, you’ll never know what is being clicked and what is selling.
Also note that different affiliates have different labels, like HotelsCombined is “&label=”, but Agoda is “&tag=”, so know which affiliate gets which tag before you start labeling everything with the incorrect label.
Diversify Your Income
Julie of Julie Dawn Fox in Portugal believes (as do I) that securing several different streams of income is one of the best things you can do for your blogging business.
If you intend to turn your blog into a sustainable business, you need to have multiple income streams and traffic sources to protect yourself against any dips or drastic changes in one area.
Ad income when your traffic is through the roof can be amazing but if you’re relying on Google to send you that traffic and there’s an update that tanks your ratings, you’ll suffer big time.
If you have built up an engaged list of email subscribers and are actively working at least one social media platform, you will find it easier to weather the storm.
Similarly, depending on just one revenue source, like ads or a particular affiliate partner, is risky.
Hedge your bets with a basket of different affiliate partners, develop your own products and services and be creative about how you can optimise the money-making opportunities that are open to you through your blog.
You May Never “Vacation” Again
Often people start blogging because they think, “I can be paid to travel,” but that’s far from reality.
When you first start travel blogging, content is king and as Bruna of Maps n Bags points out, you may never really be able to enjoy those trips in the same way ever again.
When I started blogging, I thought it would give me the freedom I always wanted to travel the world, and it does, but I wish I knew from the beginning I would not enjoy a vacation for real ever again.
Now, when I travel somewhere, I research everything I need to know about the place before leaving home and hustle through the city in a way I see & do in two days what my readers would normally do in four.
Plan Your Posts Before Your Trip
Ania of the Traveling Twins brings up a really great point and something I learned way too late in the game.
I realized that it’s so much easier to write about a place if you have some idea what you want to write before you visit it yourself.
If you have your future post in mind when you visit, then you can collect information on opening times, and take all the necessary photos as you go.
This saves hours later, searching the internet for information and royalty-free photos. Doing some advance research also means you don’t miss the most important sights yourself.
The first time I made a post like that was when I visited Kuala Lumpur with kids, and writing this long post was a breeze.
Take More Pictures Than You Think You’ll Need
Priyadarshini of Glorious Sunrise recommends taking plenty of photos and I couldn’t agree more. You will not be able to go back after you’re home and want to have just one more picture of that monument or cute beach town (unless, of course, you’re writing about your own city).
Before I started my blog, though I traveled frequently, I did not take as many pictures as needed for a blog.
Now when I write about those places, I have to make a great effort to track down a good picture to go with the content.
This is the age where the audience loves to see a picture to know more about the place instead of just text describing it.
After all, an image can express more words than we can write.
Take an SEO Course From the Beginning
Ladona Stork of the blog Walking the Parks wishes that she’d taken SEO seriously from the very beginning.
Take a basic SEO course or at least read everything you can get your hands on about keyword research.
Don’t worry about all the analytics that a course will also cover as analytics won’t have much impact until you have a good solid base of content. Also, the analytics will distract from your core mission as a new blogger of creating as much great content as possible.
However, using good keyword research as you craft your posts will help Google find you faster.
And it will help you write articles on topics people are actually searching for. Most bloggers (me included) don’t recognize the value of good long-tail keywords until they have dozens of articles written. Then they are faced with a gigantic task of updating their existing posts.
Plan Your Trips Around SEO
Linda Faison of La Dolce Fit Vita wishes that she’d thought more about SEO and keywords before she even started traveling and booking her trips that she was going to write about for her blog.
I think it’s safe to say the general consensus of what is most important in the blogging world is SEO. In the end, what makes a blog successful is if it has traffic or not.
In the early days yes, you can rely on Pinterest, but what will really make your blog soar is if it gets organic traffic.
This is why I think it is so important to stress how important keywords are. Now I’m not going to talk about how to find the right keywords and what the right difficulty/traffic score is, but what I WILL say is: Pick your keywords before even writing the post.
Actually, pick your keywords before even planning that trip!!! I can’t stress this enough. Let me tell you why.
Before I knew anything about keywords, I had booked a trip to Paris and one to Ponza Island. Well in the first case, Paris is really hard to rank for because there is so much material out there on that city.
You will find that almost all keywords you will try are already ranking quite well with other bloggers that have significantly higher DA scores than you. In this case, I’m not saying you should avoid going to Paris, but make sure you plan a perspective or twist on the post that no one else has tried.
In the second case of the island, guess what? No one really cares about Ponza because no one really knows it exists.
Translated in keywords, there is either one really generic keyword impossible to rank for, or ten thousand others that have virtually zero traffic. What to do in this case?
Well, I’m not saying you shouldn’t travel to that particular place (that defeats half the purpose of what we do as travel bloggers), but do have in mind that this post will probably get less traffic. Work on link-building and cross-posting for this post in particular.