I don’t write here at Family Rambling about the “business” of travel blogging, though I do get emails asking for my advice on a pretty regular basis. I was approached by Blog Conference Newbie to share my knowledge as part of the BlogHop Blog Conference at Home, an online “conference” filled with helpful information for bloggers. To see the full agenda of learning sessions visit Blog Conference Newbie by clicking the button to the right.
Travel Blogging Do’s and Don’ts
When I explain to people what I do I hear, “I wish I had that job!” And I’ll admit- I have been offered some pretty great opportunities. But long before those opportunities presented themselves I had to prove myself to the blog-o-sphere that I was worth reading. I now publish two travel blogs (Family Rambling and Ireland Family Vacations) and have learned a few things about what it takes to start a travel blog, continue it long term and succeed in a world of similar voices.
Do Know Your Niche Where does you passion lie? Is it family travel, luxury travel, backpacking or maybe a specific country like Ireland or Italy? Define your niche in your about me page and in your meta tag to make your site easy to find in searches. As far as I am aware, I am the only blogger who writes exclusively about traveling in Ireland with kids; because my niche is so defined I have seen exponential growth since the site’s debut in March and have a bounce rate of below 10%.
Don’t Stray Too Far From Your Niche When your email box begins to fill with offers for advertising don’t let the money sway to too far from your core audience. If you cater to budget travelers an advertisement or sponsored post for hostels would be a great fit; a 5 star resort, not so much.
Do Know Your Voice Are you a story teller or a how-to writer? Know your writing style and perfect it. Your audience can tell if your writing style is uncomfortable for you.
Don’t Just Write for SEO Sure, you want your posts to rank high on the search engines, but don’t write just for them. I find it is easiest to write my article then do a quick search in Google Keyword Tool for what I think people will search for when looking for my topic. I will then make sure I have one or two of the keywords in my post.
Do Use Lots of Photos You know the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words”? It’s true. Take lots of pictures and use your best ones to tell your story. Experiment with video. And don’t forget to show the food- people love to see images of food!
Don’t Forget to Alt Tag Your Images Hover above the photo of my family above. You’ll see that a tag pops up that says “Outside the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor”. That is an alt tag. Search engines now use photos and video in searches and a descriptice alt tag will make your post more likely to be found than a random set of numbers.
Do Be Prepared to Spend Your Own Money I don’t know anyone who said, “Hey, I’m a travel blogger” and was handed free travel without a decent portfolio or media kit. When I began writing Family Rambling in 2005 I just wanted to share what I was learning about traveling with my own child. It wasn’t until 2008 that I began receiving pitches for travel products, and 2010 when I was invited on my first press trip. And even a free trip isn’t completely free- you’ll often have some travel costs, food and miscellaneous expenses.
Don’t Just Do It for the “Free Stuff” You can tell the sites that are only out there for what they can get. If all your posts are sponsored and your information is recycled press releases your audience will know- and they won’t stick around.
Do Be Prepared to Work Sure, a dreamy trip to Hawaii sounds great- but what is expected of you? Some PR companies will have a contract for you to sign, and though many bloggers balk at these, I believe they are the best way to know what is expected of you. If you are not given a written contract, I find it best to ask what the company is expecting. I find it best to over-deliver.
Don’t Expect Your Vacations to Ever Be the Same My family is very used to me taking photos of everything (often many takes), plastering their images all over social media sites, and often focusing on work before we can have fun. And, while a media trip may be exotic, it’s all about work. Even if the PR company has an open bar you don’t want to overindulge and make an a$$ of yourself. Besides, there is probably an early event the next morning you shouldn’t miss.
Do Remember It’s a Job If you’re not sitting in front of your laptop every night of your trip editing photos and outlining stories you’ll be doing double-duty when you return home. Posts to write for your site and any other outlets you contribute to, photos to edit and share, links and thank you emails. These things all take time- and quite a bit of it. Travel blogging is not for the hobby blogger.
Don’t Forget to Pay Your Taxes Every hotel stay, press trip or comped meal counts as income. Every one. Nope, it’s not cash. And it won’t pay your bills unless you find paying outlets to write for. But it is “in kind” income and, as such, is taxable.
I often tell people that my husband makes money and I make opportunity. If it weren’t for the support (and understanding) of my family there is no way I could have built the sites I have.
Do follow your dream.
Don’t forget to be thankful for it.