How Not To Start A Travel Blog

MikeachimBlogging, Lunacy, Travel5 Comments

tying walking boot shoelace

Starting a travel blog anytime soon? Don’t be like this idiot.


*door opens*

Hi again!

What? Oh. Oh no. NO. Not you again. SECURITY PLEASE!

I’ve been thinking about my book!

I’ve spent 4 years trying to forget it. Are you still…?

Fortune favours the persistent!

Ordinarily I’d agree. Well, the clock is ticking and soon you will be gone. Let’s get this over with. Your book? Is it still about smelling your way round the world?

I’ve changed my tactics.

Very wise.

I’m going to get a million followers on social media – and that will allow me to write my book.

I take back my earlier comment.

All I have to do is build up loads of Twitter and Facebook followers, and they’ll buy my stuff in advance! Right?

Actually, that’s not entirely

And the way I’m going to get those fans is by starting a travel blog.

Ah.

This is why I waited 4 years with this. I’ve been doing research.

Admirably diligent.

Seriously, travel blogging is the best way to become famous really quickly. Have you heard of it?

Oh, as a new media travel publisher with offices in 20 countries, I’m vaguely aware, yes. But please, enlighten me.

Travel blogging is easy. You open a blog, you write any old stuff in it for two or three weeks, and then you’re making enough money to travel the world!

And this came from your research, did it?

Yes!

Exactly how many travel blogs did you read?

All four of them!

Remarkable. So, based on this exhaustively comprehensive survey of the travel blogging landscape, what do you propose?

Branding!

Yes, that might work. Perhaps across your forehead. Something like “Warning: Idiot”.

I mean, turning myself into a brand. I need to stand out. Look – I made a media kit!

Mike is a Concept, not an idea. He’s an Emotion, not a feeling. How…how did you put this together?

I found a branding guide on the Internet and copied it!

Yes, I don’t think that’s an actual…no, don’t mind me. Please continue.

Do you like the name of my blog?

Around The World in 80 Days With Michael. I see. Did you run that title past Google?

What’s Google?

I guess that answers my question. Well, as titles go, it’s a bit long. And somewhat restrictive if you want to blog for more than 3 months. And there’s the small matter of an extremely famous person having all the rights to the name already. Pick another.

Nomad….

No.

Adventu….

No.

Backp…

No.

Vagab…

No.

Wande…

Nope.

Bacon Is Not The Only Fruit.

OK. I like the oddball angle – although I believe bacon has been pinned down, so to speak. But I do like how you catch the eye by suggesting bacon is a fruit.

It isn’t?

Right. Well, anyway. About the topic of your blog. What’s going to be different about it?

Different?

Yes, different. Because there are tens of thousands of travel blogs out there – no, shut up, we don’t have very long before you’re thrown out, so it’s my turn to speak. Travel blogging is an insanely crowded space. It’s incredibly difficult for newcomers to stand out if they’re not attempting something new. So in the interests of stopping you talking, here are a few ideas for new travel blogs wanting to stand out.

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1. Choose Your Destination

As John O’Nolan noted in his heartfelt overview of Travelllll.com, many travel bloggers start hobbyist blogs that start as travel diaries, and then get scaled up towards a business goal – and the result is that the blog remains centred on the person writing it. They’re the focus of everything that goes on. Done well, a personal media brand is a powerful thing, but it takes time to build for one simple reason: to quote Johnny B. Truant, by default the universe doesn’t give a flying **** about you. At first, nobody cares. You have to do things that make them care, and that takes time.

One way around this is to focus on something that people already care about – the place. Pick a particular corner of the world and push hard to become the no. 1 independent authority on all things travel-related for that destination. Make that the point of your blog. You’ll probably be up against your local tourist board’s search engine rankings at first – but what better way to get noticed by that tourist board? If your blog is location-specific, you may be able to build long-term relationships with local media companies: see how Keith at Traveling Savage was featured at The Scotsman. If you’re writing about where you live, become a backyard blogger when you’re not travelling.

Potential pitfalls:

  • picking a destination that is absolutely saturated with existing bloggers – which isn’t so much of a hurdle if you avoid the next danger, which is…
  • sounding like everyone else writing about that destination. Be weirder than that (in the good way).
  • forgetting your audience. If you’re writing a travel blog in this way, your site is mainly aimed at people visiting the place you’re writing about.  There’s a muddy line between a “travel” and “destination” label for such a site, but I reckon it’s about who you choose your audience to be. If they’re travellers, I reckon you have a travel blog.

2. Write For People Who Are Location-Static

At the TBU Rotterdam travel conference last year, Gary Bembridge talked about the results of a survey he’d run past his site’s readers. His findings seemed to suggest a divide between what bloggers were generally publishing and what audiences generally wanted to read.  This makes sense if many bloggers are being led by their own passion for crafting a location-independent business that allows them to travel. They’ll love writing about it because that’s how they want to live their lives.

Gary’s argument was that too few bloggers are trying to serve travel tips to people with full-time jobs who only go travelling a few times a year. The situation may be rapidly changing, but the bulk of people browsing for travel advice online are still going to be people who aren’t prepared to quit their jobs to travel the world. They want meaningful adventures, but they have limited time and a limited budget. They’re most people on the Internet. Write for them effectively, and you’ll grab a big audience.

Here’s a fun project from Alastair Humphreys that’s aimed at these readers.

3. Make It All About The Finish Line

The best blog title I think I’ve ever seen is “Fluent in 3 Months” from Benny Lewis. Here’s why.

1. “Fluent” almost always means “language-learning,” so it’s instantly communicating that it’s about learning new languages.

2. “In 3 Months” is a self-renewing ending. He goes somewhere – he starts learning, the clock starts ticking, and 12 weeks later, The End. And onto the next language and the next country, where the clock resets. The perfect sustainable mission statement.

3. Who is “Fluent In 3 Months”? Benny, obviously – but since he’s providing a service for the reader, the title is also aimed at his audience.

It’s a mission statement of service to the reader, combined with a time-limited challenge. Pretty much a perfect title, I’d say.

If you’re creating a new travel blog and you have a particular focus or journey in mind, rack your brains about some way to bake your endings into everything you present your reader with, including the title. Make it really clear where you’re going.

Travel blogs are about exciting journeys – so flag up the end of yours as soon as possible to make your reader care.


Did any of that make sense to you?

That’s amazing. I have so many new ideas!

Really? Well, that’s excellent. Maybe there’s hope for you yet. Which of those points really resonated with you?

I’m going to call my blog “Nomaddddddddddddic.com”.

I…

Twelve Ds! I just checked. The domain name is free.

Yes, you’ve grasped the essentials for making a truly successful travel blog. Congratulations. Now if you’ll just go with the gentleman in the uniform, he has organized a tailor-made, all-inclusive trip for you to the pavement outside. Bon voyage.

Images:  Sörmlands turismutveckling AB and Mike Sowden.
  • I would actually disagree with Gary Bembridge.

    I don’t think you can sustain an actual long term following by providing travel tips.

    If people infrequently travel, then they are going to get their tips and advice on an ad hoc basis, just before they are about to travel. There is certainly value in providing that sort of information, and it is actually a great way to monetize a site, but it isn’t going to create a ‘following’.

    That sort of content can generate search traffic, but it isn’t going to create much of a following, especially if you are limited to a geographical niche. There is nothing wrong with search traffic, but you need to be cognizant about what you are providing, where you visitors are coming from, and why.

    Outside of my 2010 TBEX Keynote on Travel Porn, I haven’t talked much about the psychology of why people read travel blogs. However, it is something I have given considerable thought to.

    Tips, advice and travel news isn’t something people want or need everyday. Again, it is valuable, but it is mostly consumed on an ad hoc basis. What can sustain people every day, and is something you can build following around is aspiration, inspiration, and beauty.

    Most of my audience doesn’t follow me because of photography or writing, they do so because of WHAT I do. I’ve had the same conversation 100’s of times, where someone finds out what I do and it unleashes a flood of questions.

    Photos are also every easy to share and consume online, which is why audience building is probably more skewed to those who can provide visual content vs those who write.

    The fact that it is extremely difficult to build that sort of audience, yet that is what everyone tries to do, is another story entirely.

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  • Great post. I might suggest that putting yourself in too tight a pigeonhole with your blog name, might cause some issues, especially if you’re thinking of keeping the blog beyond a year or two. An objective is one thing, but if you call yourself “Hot-to-trot-twenty-something-solo-traveler.com” or something of the like when you’re 28 and single, then you turn 30 or you get married, well, hmmmm. New blog name? Or just carry on pretending like nothing changed? The brand you create is something that can evolve over time and even be changed drastically, but the name? Too specific or boxy a name and, well, that’s just a pain in the url.

  • dude!
    Nomaddddddddddddic.net and Nomaddddddddddddic.org are also available!

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